Monthly Archives: September 2013

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Lentil Soup

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I was away, on the east coast, for about 2.5 weeks.  Peyman and I spent time with our niece, Roya, in New York and had an amazing vegan food adventure.  We tried new restaurants almost every day for lunch and dinner.  When we left New York, he flew to Europe for business and I went to Florida to meet my mom and sister’s family, who recently moved there.

Before my trip to the east coast, my sister and I discussed how I would consult her on cooking healthy, nutritiously and deliciously for her family.

Good thing they have a Whole Foods Market not too far away from her home.  We did some serious food shopping there for the week when I arrived.

One thing I love about cooking at home is that I’m in control of the amount of fat and salt in my food.  Eating out every day in  New York was a wonderful luxury and provided me with great research; however, it was so pricey and who knows if the cooks in the back were heavy-handed with oils and salt, if they used agave, had traces of gluten in their food, and what if the workers weren’t the most sanitary?! I’ve worked in professional kitchens– I know what can go on back there. EEeek!  I much prefer eating at home than going out all the time.  There are those days, though, when I need a break from cooking so we need to eat out to maintain my sanity.  That happens at least once a week.

While in Florida, we discovered that there is only one great Indian restaurant near my sister’s house and only one “vegan” restaurant in her city.  That “vegan” restaurant, however, was located one door down from a crematorium.  Sounds like a paradox, right?  I remember leaving the restaurant and smelling barbecue, but my mom, sister, and I noticed there weren’t any other restaurants around.  We were creeped out and don’t think we’ll go there again.  Too bad, though, because their food was good.  Just wish they had a better location where ashes weren’t floating in the air. Ewww…sorry for the visual.    

Anyway, we didn’t do much eating out while I was at my sister’s for a week and a half.

We started every day with a glowing green smoothie and I made quite a few dishes and desserts, including yellow curry, noodles with Asian peanut sauce, chocolate chai cookies, and my nutty creamy chocolate cake.  To my delight, my vegan and gluten-free recipes were a hit with the family, even the kids, and especially the vegan sweet treats!  It warms my heart to see them eat my food, smile, genuinely enjoy it and ask for seconds or thirds.

Speaking about warming the heart, it rains a lot in Florida, and usually the rain stops and the skies clear up.   One day, though, there was so much rain, thunder and lighting that my nephew and niece couldn’t attend their daily tennis academy.  I felt that a soothing, comforting and warming hearty soup was the best meal for a rainy day.  Since my sister had been asking me to make something with lentils since she picked me up from the airport, I decided to make a lentil soup.  While I was preparing it in the kitchen, my niece handed me a box of elbow pasta and said she really liked pasta.  At that moment, I decided to make my lentil soup an Italian lentil soup.  How would it be Italian? I decided to add some elbow pasta, and pasta is Italian!

It’s a super simple, hearty soup.  It’s super easy to make and soothing on a gloomy, rainy day.  I hope you enjoy it!

Here’s the recipe.

 

Italian Lentil Soup

Servings 6-8

Ingredients

1 medium onion, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

sea salt and cayenne pepper

4 roma tomatoes, diced

1.5 cup lentils

11 cups of low-sodium vegetable stock

4-6 fresh thyme sprigs or 1.5tsp dry thyme

1/4 tsp rosemary

1/2 tsp oregano, heaping

2 bay leaves

2/3 cup gluten-free elbow pasta or swirls (there are quinoa, corn, and rice pastas)

nutritional yeast, optional (for garnish)

Directions

1. In a large stock pot, add the onion, garlic, carrots, 1/8 tsp of sea salt and 3 shakes of cayenne pepper.  Saute for 5-8 minutes, over medium heat until tender. (You do not need oil since there is so much moisture from the veggies.  Stir occasionally, ensuring the garlic doesn’t burn and turn the soup bitter.)

2. Add tomatoes and their juices.  Simmer until juices evaporate a little and tomatoes break down, stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes.

3. Add lentils, mix to coat, then add vegetable stock and thyme. Bring to a boil over high heat.  Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes until lentils are almost tender.

4.  Stir in the pasta and simmer until the pasta is tender but still firm, about 8 minutes.

5. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and top with nutritional yeast, if you wish.

Enjoy!

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Kelp Noodles with Asian Peanut Sauce

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Sea vegetables, rich in vitamins A, B and C, are considered to be vegan seafood. They are high in calcium, protein, carotenes and chlorophyll; and they contain easily absorbed and densely concentrated minerals, especially iron, potassium, magnesium and iodine. Sea vegetables include: kelp, nori, dulse, wakame, kombu, arame, and hijiki.

I eat quite a bit of this stuff.  On occasion, I make vegan sushi rolls or mini tacos with nori and gluten-free furikake.  I also incorporate dulse into in my salads, noodles, and even sauces to achieve a more salty flavor in my food without introducing more sodium.  In addition, I pick up at least one bag of kelp noodles every time I visit Whole Foods Market.

Without any preservatives, kelp noodles have a very long shelf life. Although I could wait 6 months to enjoy them, I’d rather eat them fresh.

Keep in mind, kelp noodles taste a little bitter and crunchy straight out of the package, but after soaking and slathering them with sauce, they can be turned into beautiful soft glass noodles. I find these noodles to be very refreshing, especially on hot days. When I enjoy them, I prefer eating them Vietnamese-style.  For this recipe, I use traditional Vietnamese ingredients, except for the fish sauce, while adding other ingredients to make up for the salt- and tanginess of the fish sauce.  I usually use whatever ingredients I have on hand to add into the mix. If I have bean sprouts and sugar snap peas, I add them in addition to the kale and cucumber.

 

Kelp Noodles with Asian Peanut Sauce

Servings: 1 – 2

Time: 30 minutes

Brief: Kelp Noodles with Asian Peanut Sauce are a refreshing meal or starter course. Perfect for warmer days or when you feel like eating something light.

Diet: V, GF, GFV, DF, SF, SRF, R

 

Ingredients

Salad:

12 oz. kelp noodles

½ lemon

1 cup shredded kale, stems removed, optional

1 tsp fresh mint, chopped

1 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

2 scallions, sliced thinly at a diagonal

1 Persian cucumber, chopped, optional

Garnish:

1 Tbsp peanuts, chopped

Sauce:

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 – 1 serrano chile, deseeded and minced*

2 tsp ginger, minced

1 Tbsp peanut butter

1.5 Tbsp coconut aminos**

2 tsp ume plum vinegar***

1 lime, juiced

1 Tbsp filtered water

Notes:

*can substitute with jalapeno or Thai chile. Adjust amount of chile depending on your desired level of spiciness

**a soy sauce alternative. If you don’t have this and don’t mind consuming soy, use Bragg’s liquid aminos or tamari, along with 2 drops of Stevia

***if you can’t find ume plum vinegar, you can use unfermented miso paste if you’re okay with consuming soy products.

 

Directions

1. Remove the kelp noodles from their package and give them a rinse.  Place the kelp noodles in a medium bowl and cut them a bit with kitchen shears, just enough so they don’t tangle. Add juice from 1/2 a lemon, 1/4 tsp of sea salt and add filtered water, enough to submerge the noodles.  Allow them to soak about 20-25 minutes to soften.

2. In the meantime, prepare the sauce.  Add all the ingredients for the sauce into a medium bowl and stir to combine. Adjust seasonings to taste.

3. Prepare salad ingredients.

4. Once the kelp noodles have soaked, drain the water out of the bowl. Add the sauce to the kelp noodles and massage the sauce into the noodles with your hands.  Toss the remaining salad ingredients into the salad and enjoy!

 

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Banana Pancakes

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Pancakes make an appearance on my dining table at least once a week when Peyman and I have brunch.  When I first started making vegan and gluten-free pancakes, it took me a handful of trials to develop a delicious and nutritious gluten-free and vegan pancake.  This is an improvement compared to my first “Coconut and Banana Pancakes” recipe.  Still high in fiber and protein, these are a tad bit fluffier.  They also contain banana and dates, making them super filling and satisfying.  If you like banana in your pancakes and are craving a heavier pancake breakfast, you should try these. Just keep in mind that the bananas make these pancakes a little dense and a bit moist.

I might as well call them superfood pancakes because they do pack a punch when it comes to nutrition and health benefits.  The oatmeal, garbanzo flour and chia seeds supply the fiber and protein which keep you fuller longer and also aid in digestion.  Chia seeds have omega-3 fatty acids (important for brain health) and manganese (good for your bones and helps your body use other essential nutrients like biotin and thiamin).  Bananas contain potassium (helps your heart beat) and prebiotics (improve the absorption of calcium, strengthen your immune system, and assist you in resisting infections).  These prebiotics also limit injury in the intestines and reduce the chance of colorectal diseases.  And there’s even more potassium and antioxidants from the coconut oil. If I go on and continue to list the many potential benefits you can receive from these pancakes, you will be having these for dinner!

 

Banana Pancakes

Servings:  1-2

Time:  27 minutes

Diet: V, GF, GFV, DF, SF, SRF

Ingredients

Pancakes:

4 large medjool dates

1 cup coconut milk (or any plant-based “milk”)

2 tbsp coconut oil

2 tsp vanilla

1 pinch of sea salt

2 large bananas

3 tbsp chia seeds

1 cup oat flour, gluten-free (can substitute with sorghum flour)

1/4 cup garbanzo bean flour

1/4 cup almond meal

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp stevia powder

 

Chocolate Sauce:

1 tbsp almond butter

2 tbsp cacao powder

1 tsp vanilla extract (no alcohol)

2.5 tbsp maple syrup

 

Directions

Pancakes:

1. In a blender, add the medjool dates, coconut milk, vanilla, sea salt, bananas, coconut oil (melted, not solid), and chia seeds. Blend until the dates are pulverized (little bits of dates are fine).

2. In a medium bowl, mix together the oat flour, garbanzo flour, almond meal, cinnamon, and stevia.

3. Create a well (a hole) in the dry mix and pour in the wet mixture from the blender. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the blender. Fold the dry and wet ingredients together with a rubber spatula until combined.

4. Important step: Set the bowl aside for 15-17 minutes. The flours and chia seeds will absorb the liquid.  In the meantime, make the chocolate sauce.

5. After the batter has rested for 15-17 minutes, heat a non-stick griddle on a little less than medium heat.  Spray with coconut oil spray, or use a little coconut oil to coat pan. With a ladle, pour a circular pancake about 4-inches in diameter.  Flip pancakes when edges appear cooked and bubbles emerge on top. Cook the other side until it turns golden brown.

6. Serve immediately, topped with a drizzle of chocolate sauce and mixed berries or other fruit.

Makes six 4-inch pancakes.

 

Chocolate Sauce:

Combine and mix all the chocolate sauce ingredients together.  If you feel the sauce is too thick, thin it out with filtered water a few drops at a time.  Mix well.

 

Assemble

Stack the pancakes in the center of a plate, drizzle with chocolate and fresh fruit.  Enjoy!

 

 

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