Monthly Archives: October 2013

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Spinach and Parsley Pesto

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When I was four years old and while all five of my older sisters were in school, my mom would spend her time either cleaning the house, talking up a storm on the phone with her sister (my aunt), or helping my dad with his business.  During this time, I had free reign to do whatever I wanted with no one to stand in my way and stop me.  In fact, I learned to read by singing on the karaoke machine and reading the lyrics from music books.  When I did not know certain words, I would bug my parents and ask them.  I sang Karaoke every morning and for hours at a time.  I also sang the same songs over and over again and eventually, through consistency and repetition, I learned how to read.  I can see how the Gentle Revolution Method from the Institutes for Achievement for the Achievement of Human Potential worked on my little, genius nephews.  A routine and repetition is powerful in the development of young minds.

[Back to my childhood story] In the afternoons and around lunchtime, I would start watching my favorite tv shows.  I started with The Pink Panther, a show that none of my sisters cared for and watched when they were home.  Next up was Popeye the Sailor Man.  I loved the introduction where Popeye consumed tons of spinach or whatever vegetable that was green.  As a child, it affirmed in me that spinach is good for you and could energize the body.  When the show was about to begin, I would run to my mom and ask her to have my spinach ready for me.  My mom would cook up whatever greens we had and this is how I started my lunches.  The following year, I discovered the Nickelodeon channel and was influenced by a variety of shows such as Today’s Special to eat a strawberry frosted cakes and the cartoon with the boy who would lay on top of the tree eating sticky sweets while reflecting about his day.  By way of the tube, I had some good influences and some bad influences in terms of food consumption.  However, I have always held onto the idea that spinach is a super food and makes us strong.  I was that kid who always ate her vegetables– spinach and greens have always been a large part of my diet.

[Fast forward to today]  I have a lot of spinach in my refrigerator and freezer, and always have a good stock of other fruits and vegetables.  Usually, if I am short on time and see a zucchini in my fridge, I will most likely want to make zucchini “pasta.”  It is so simple.  I just take my julienne peeler or mandolin to make the zucchini into strips or “noodles.”  In case you are interested, here is a demonstration on making zucchini noodles, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HiCJLqfE7tY.

Usually when I make zucchini “noodles,” I crave pesto.  However, rather than using basil I used spinach and parsley since I always have those two ingredients on hand.  If you know me, you know I like spinach in my pancakes, spinach in my lasagna, and spinach in my smoothies.  I guess you can call me the “Bubba Gump” of spinach.  I like to work with what I have on hand and since I do not usually use pesto’s main ingredients, you will see that this is not your typical pesto.  If you do not have parsley or spinach, try broccoli rabe, collards, even kale, and of course, basil, or a combination of them all. This pesto does not contain pine nuts, parmesan cheese, or a ton of olive oil.  This recipe is actually quite light in taste and density compared to the full-fat version.  As you will see, it is the appearance, function and method for making the pesto that stays virtually the same.  I enjoy my version very much. I find it to be refreshing and delicious!  I hope you do too!

Finally, I shall end today’s post with the song, “Alice” by Avril Lavigne since Alice went on many adventures as a child, like myself.  Being the youngest of  six daughters was fun.  I am glad they gave me the freedom to wander about and try a lot of different things. This set the tone for my many different lives (careers and experiences) and finally rediscovering one of my first loves–cooking–bringing me here today, sharing this recipe with you.  Enjoy!

Spinach and Parsley Pesto

Servings 4-6

Time 5 minutes

Ingredients

A handful of fresh spinach or a heaping 1 cup fresh spinach

1/4 cup of fresh parsley

1/3 cup of raw pumpkin or sunflower seeds (soaked in filtered water for at least 3 hours if you don’ t have a powerful Vitamix, Ninja or Blentec blender. If you do have a powerful blender, soaking isn’t necessary)

1-2 tsp of Himalayan or Celtic sea salt

2-3 cloves of garlic

3 Tbsp of sunflower, grapeseed oil, or cold-pressed olive oil

1/2 cup of filtered water

Directions

1. If you don’t have a powerful blender, soak seeds overnight or for at least 3 hours/

2. Blend all of the ingredients together and add salt to taste.  You may also add some cayenne pepper, if you wish.

And voila. You have pesto!  So easy, right?

Toss this with noodles, preferably zucchini noodles, and enjoy!

 

Zucchini “Noodles” 

You will need 2-3 medium to large zucchinis.

One zucchini is good for one serving, with about 1/4 to 1/3 the pesto sauce, depending on how saucy you like your noodles.  To make zucchini noodles, simply use a julienne peeler to peel noodles, or alternatively, use a spiralizer or mandolin.  I like to eat my noodles raw but you can heat the noodles a little in warm water or in the microwave.

Toss the pesto with zucchini noodles right before you are ready to serve. If you let the dish sit for more than 10 minutes or so, the salt in the pesto will remove the water in the zucchini and the zucchini will start to break down and the whole dish will be a little sloppy. You can also toss in slices of tomato!

I hope you enjoy this simple and easy meal!

Buono Appetito!

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Black Bean Brownies – Best Brownies. Ever.

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One day, I found Peyman snooping around the kitchen in search of dessert.  At that time, I did not have anything readily available so I decided that I was going to make him a chocolate cake.

Just as I was preparing to make the cake, however, a fellow vegan from England, Justine, posted a photo of black bean brownies on Instagram.  She described them as “amazing!”  Since it is a rarity that she says that about a recipe I was intrigued, went out to purchase cans of organic black beans, and whipped up these amazing brownies using my usual sugar substitutions.   I experimented and threw some of the batter with mint into 2 cupcake tins to make mint chocolate brownie cupcakes.  But believe me, these brownies are so delicious on their own that you would not want to mix other flavorings.

I am so happy and amazed by this chocolate treat. They are super decadent, fudge-y, chocolate-y, and so delicious!  I cannot even tell that there are black beans in them!

When making these treats, be sure to drain and rinse your black beans very, very well. Otherwise, you and whomever you share these treats with will most likely have a rumbly, gassy belly.

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This recipe is an adaptation of Trine Rask’s recipe and converted to approximate American measurements.  It is slightly healthier, lower in fructose, and has a lower glycemic index.

It is a perfect treat to take to a social gathering or to greet your new neighbors with!  I hope you try them and love them as much as I do!

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Black Bean Brownies

6 to 9 servings

 

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups canned black beans (from about 1 1/2 cans)

1/4 cup coconut nectar

4 Tbsp coconut or sunflower oil

1/2 cup quick oats, gluten-free (or sorghum flour)

2 Tbsp raw cacao powder

2 Tbsp coconut palm sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract (or seeds from one vanilla bean)

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

½-3/4 cup vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips

 

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Line a 6″X6″ or 7″X7″ square baking dish with parchment paper. Use spray, parchment, spray method.  It make it easier to remove brownies once baked. See demonstration here, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRJ2r3Em5aw.  Spray the pan first, lay the parchment flush into the pan, spray again, lay the other layer of parchment in the pan, place it flush into the pan and spray the parchment again for a non-stick surface.  You may hold down the loose ends with paper clips.

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3. In a food processor or blender, add all of the ingredients EXCEPT for the chocolate chips.  Blend. Stop the blender and scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula to ensure all the ingredients are getting blended, and then blend again until completely smooth.

4. Place the mixture into a bowl, or you can keep the mixture in the food processor, and fold in the chocolate chips.

5.  Pour into the pan and spread evenly with an offset spatula, rubber spatula, or knife.

6. Place the pan in the oven for about 20 minutes, depending on your oven.  Toothpick test will not work for this since chocolate chips will be melted.  Note: It’s better if it’s a little undercooked than overcooked.

7. Cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into them.  However, I prefer to refrigerate them fully, for at least an hour, then cut into them. They are so good cold!

8. Serve alone, cold, or warm with vegan vanilla ice “cream” to make it a brownie a la mode!

 

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Enjoy!

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Gnocchi with Roasted Butternut Squash

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I lived in Santa Cruz, California, for 5 years.  Santa Cruz is a beautiful place known for a great many things.  There’s the Mystery Spot, a gravitational anomaly where balls roll uphill, not downhill; some believe that vampires live in the Santa Cruz mountains because of the movie “Lost Boys”; Santa Cruz is known for it’s great surf; it’s where the ocean meets the mountains, where bohemians and hippies frolic about; and where you can find some really fantastic restaurants.

 

I learned about the long list of great restaurants while I worked full-time at PricewaterhouseCoopers while attending school and being a choir director at the university part-time.  With my busy schedule, I didn’t have much time to make my own food so I’d eat out…a lot.  Influenced by my older friends from work, I was guided by ratings in the Zagat guide.

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That’s when I found Star Bene on East Cliff.  The first time I had dinner at Star Bene, I ordered one of their specials– gnocchi with prosciutto and peas in a creamy gorgonzola sauce; it was heavenly.  Even though the dish wasn’t on their regular menu, I ordered the same dish every time I went back to the restaurant.  I was so pleased that they’d make it for me every time with no hassle.  It’s been 11 years since I’d eaten there.  Since then, I’ve transitioned to a vegan and gluten-free lifestyle, so I’m sad to say I’ll never have an amazing meal there again.  Unfortunately, I hadn’t had a good gnocchi since. Well, up until yesterday.

After seeing a few gnocchi posts on Instagram recently, I developed a hankering for gnocchi.  Since I had butternut squash on hand and watched Giada DeLaurentiis on television make a creamy pasta dish with butternut squash, I thought I’d do the same.

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Mmmm…I loved the sweet- and spiciness of the roasted butternut squash and red onion, the savory light pillows of gnocchi, the saltiness of the vegan parmesan, creaminess of the sauce, crunchiness of the nuts and the depth and freshness of the basil.  It was a perfect, warming and comforting Fall dish.

I was very pleased with this gnocchi dish and hope you will enjoy it just the same.

Buono Appetito!

 

Gnocchi with Roasted Butternut Squash

2 Servings

 

Ingredients

1 pound of butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch cubes

1/2 red onion, diced into 1/2 inch pieces

sunflower or cold-pressed olive oil for drizzling

Himalayan sea salt

cayenne pepper

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts and/or pecans, toasted

1/2 cup chopped basil leaves

4 tbsp vegan/gf parmesan cheese ( I use Go Veggie! brand. Found at Whole Foods)

“goat” cashew cheese, cream. (directions below)

about a pound of gnocchi (directions below)

Goat-less cashew cream:

3/4 cup cashews soaked in filtered water for at least 3-5 hours or overnight.

 

Gnocchi:

1 pound of red jacket potatoes

2/3 cup oat (gluten-free) flour

1 chia egg (1 tbsp chia seed mixed with 3 tbsp water. set aside for about 15 minutes until it thickens)

about 1/4 tsp Himalayan fine sea salt

 

Instructions

1. Put oven rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat oven to  425 degrees F.

2. Spray a baking sheet liberally, or use a silpat or parchment paper to line a half sheet pan. Mix the squash and onion together and arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with sunflower or olive oil and season with sea salt and cayenne pepper, to taste. Bake for to 40 to 45 minutes until the vegetables are golden and cooked through. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

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3. While the squash and onion are cooking in the oven, prepare the gnocchi.

4. Toast the walnuts, arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven until lightly toasted, about 6 to 8 minutes. Cool completely before using.

5. Make the goat-less cashew cream.

6. Once all components are prepared, assemble.  In a large bowl, add the cashew cream and vegan parmesan. Thin the cream and parm into a sauce by adding some of the hot, reserved salted water (used to boil gnocchi). Stir until it becomes a sauce-like consistency (like cheese-sauce).  Add the gnocchi and vegetables, basil, nuts.  Toss and serve. Garnish with vegan parmesan, chopped basil and nuts.

Enjoy!

 

Gnocchi:

I recommend watching this demonstration video on how to make gnocchi!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_47FQRlGy9w

1. Boil the potatoes, with skins on, in lightly salted water until they are fork tender and when you see the skins breaking off.

2. While still hot, peel the potatoes.

3. With a potato masher or with a fork, mash the potatoes. Add oat flour, and chia egg and 2 generous pinches of sea salt or 1/4 tsp.

4. Knead the dough together for about 4 minutes.  It should look like a dough.  If it looks more potato-y, add a little more flour until it looks like a dough (up to about 1/3 cup more, if needed). Roll into a ball.

5. Take about a fourth of the dough and roll into a dowl or snake-like shape about 3/4 inches in diameter. Cut 1 inch pieces and flick off a fork. Repeat.

6. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the gnocchi.  As they float to the top of the boiling water, remove them with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Reserve the salted water! Toss with a drizzle of  sunflower or olive oil until ready to use.

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Goat-less cheese or cashew cream:

In a powerful blender, add the soaked cashews.  Reserve the soaking water.  Blend.  If the cashews aren’t moving in the blender, add some water. Not too much, only enough to get it going in the blender, about 3-4 tbsp. Scrape the sides and blend until smooth. It should look like a cream. Place in a bowl. Set aside.

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Apple Pancakes

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On occasion, I receive requests from readers asking me to create recipes for them. One of my readers requested an apple pancake recipe containing apple, cinnamon, almond milk/almond flour, and buckwheat flour that would just melt in your mouth. When I read his message, I recalled my sister-in-law raving about an apple pancake recipe that contained eggs which she described as “paleo.”

Since my family enjoys pancakes on the weekends, I decided to veganize my sister-in-law’s recipe and add buckwheat flour to give the pancake more structure. These pancakes are light, guilt-free, vegan, gluten-free and sweet enough that maple syrup isn’t necessary.  By the way, I still like “My Favorite Gluten-free Vegan Pancakes and Waffles” recipe best!

 

Apple Pancakes

Servings: 1

Time: 25 minutes

 

Ingredients

1 medium apple, peeled and cored, cut into fourths

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp coconut palm sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract (no alcohol)

a dash of sea salt

5 Tbsp filtered water

2 Tbsp chia seeds

1/4 cup almond meal + 2 tbsp

3 Tbsp buckwheat flour

 

Directions

1. In a medium bowl, combine almond meal and buckwheat flour.  Set aside.

2. In a blender, combine apples, cinnamon, stevia, vanilla extract, sea salt, water and chia seeds. Blend on high until the apples are completely pulverized.

3. Using a rubber spatula, pour and scrape the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and mix to combine.

4. Allow this mixture to sit for at least 17 minutes. This is a very important step. The chia seeds will absorb the liquid and will bind it all together. Do not skip this step!

5. Spray a nonstick griddle with cooking spray and prepare like a regular pancake. This recipe will yield four pancakes that are 3 to 4 inches in diameter.

 

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This is what the mixture looks like before adding the buckwheat flour.

 

Enjoy!

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Pumpkin Pie Season

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Fall is an exciting time of year.  The mornings are crisp, the leaves start to turn color, and from this month forward we have one fun holiday each month for the next 6 months!  Woohoo!  What can I say, I like to celebrate– I’m young at heart and I love the holidays!

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What I love most about the holidays is the time spent with my family and close friends, and of course, the comforting and nostalgic foods that come with the season. When I first spotted pumpkins, squash and persimmon at the market, I couldn’t help but grab a few and take them home with me!  Although I would love to keep them on my dining table as a gorgeous Fall centerpiece, I would also like to enjoy the tastes of the season.  I can always replenish my supply!

Tomorrow I’m headed to Playa del Carmen (Mexico) for a week, and before leaving I wanted to make as many culinary creations with pumpkin and squash as possible. So far, I made yellow Thai vegetable curry with squash; spaghetti squash, spinach and cilantro fritters; and I tested a pumpkin pie recipe.  Since I’m the only one in my family that makes pumpkin pies, I will be the one busy making them come Thanksgiving and Christmas.  This year’s pumpkin pie will be everyone’s first vegan and gluten-free pumpkin pie, and to be honest, I doubt they’ll be able to tell the difference.

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For the pumpkin pie, I simply took my go-to pumpkin pie recipe that I’ve used for years, veganized it and made it gluten-free!  It turned out to be a success.  Only thing is, you will need some time to prepare in advance.  You will have to soak the cashews for at least 3 hours or overnight, and it does take some patience to freeze the pie, thaw it, slice into, then thaw it some more.  Believe me, the time is worth it and no worries, the directions are simple and straightforward; they’re all written out for you.  All you have to do is follow the directions and voila!  This pie tastes just like the pumpkin pie I grew up with, only better and it’s better for you!

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In my pre-vegan days, I would frost my pumpkin pie slice like a piece of cake, slathering it all over with whipped cream.  With this recipe, interestingly, it almost tastes like the whipped cream is built into it.  When you take a bite into this, it feels and tastes creamy; you can taste the pumpkin and all those warm familiar Fall and holiday spices.  It feels a bit light, too, yet it’s quite substantial and may make you feel full off of one slice. You can add whipped cream, like I did, but whipped cream is not necessary.  If you’d like to make coconut whipped cream, check out my coconut whipped cream recipe.  I like to spice it up my coconut whipped cream with some cinnamon and sometimes with a little nutmeg and cloves.

I am so happy about my gluten-free vegan pumpkin pie recipe!  It’s super-satisfying and tastes just like the pumpkin pie they sell at stores, only it’s vegan and gluten-free.  I hope you love it as much as I do!

Lastly, as I wrote this post, I had my Spotify radio channel tuned to my Mozart radio station.  Here’s a piece that sounded so much like October that I want to share it with you.  It’s called “The Moldau” or “Die Moldau”, by Bedrich Smetana. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTKsHwqaIr4.  Enjoy and happy Fall to you all!

 

Pumpkin Pie  

Servings: 12

Time: 5 hours

Brief: When you take a bite into a slice of this pumpkin pie, it feels and tastes creamy; you can taste the pumpkin and all those warm familiar Fall and holiday spices.  It feels a bit light, too, yet it’s quite substantial and may make you feel full off of just one slice.

Diet: V, GF, GFV, DF, SF

 

Ingredients

Crust:

1/4 cup ice-cold filtered water*

3/4 cup oat flour, gluten-free

1/4 cup coconut flour

¼ tsp xanthan gum, optional**

1/4 tsp Himalayan sea salt

2 tsp coconut nectar

6 Tbsp raw coconut oil, melted

Note:

*I measure out the water and stick the measuring cup in the freezer while I get the rest of the ingredients.

**I don’t always use xanthan gum, as pictured. If you use it, your crust will not be as crumbly.

 

Filling:

1.5 cups raw cashews, soaked in filtered water overnight

2 cups pumpkin puree*

1/3 cup raw coconut oil

1/3 cup maple syrup

3 Tbsp coconut palm nectar (or maple syrup)

1  3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp sea salt

3/4 tsp ground ginger

3/4 tsp ground allspice

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Note:

15 oz. of canned pumpkin puree will work. I bake my pumpkin in the oven at 350 degrees F for 1.5 hours.

 

Directions

Crust:

1. Set separate racks in the center and lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Spray the pie dish with non-stick cooking spray.

3. In a medium-sized bowl, add the flours, xanthan gum, sea salt and sugar, and mix to combine.  Add the melted coconut oil and mix together with a fork, scraping the sides with a spatula. Add the cold water and mix together thoroughly with a fork.  The coconut oil will then start to harden and the coconut flour may absorb all the water.  You may need to add 2-4 more tablespoons of water to get the dough to come together.

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4. Press the dough into the pie dish using the palm of your hand and fingers to press the dough flush into the pie dish. Try to make the crust as even throughout. If it helps, use a large spoon to smoothen out the dough evenly.

5. Place a large piece of parchment paper over the pie shell, just enough to hold pie weights, and fill the shell with dried beans or pie weights. Place the pie dish on a baking sheet, and bake on the center rack, until the shell is light brown, about 15 minutes.

6. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, and remove the parchment paper and pie weights from the pie shell. Place the baking sheet back into the oven and bake for another 5-7 minutes or until golden brown.  The crust might crack a little if over-baked or too dry, but that’s fine. Mine cracked a little and was still fine. (Remember, I didn’t use xanthan gum. If I had used xanthan gum, it shouldn’t have cracked.)

7. Cool the crust and prepare the filling.

 

Filling:

1. Soak cashews overnight or for at least 3 hours in about 2 cups of water.

2. Place all of the filling ingredients into the blender then blend on high until very smooth. Stop the blender and scrape the sides to ensure everything is getting blended. Taste and sweeten to taste, if you like it sweeter. If you do add more coconut nectar, blend until completely incorporated.

3. Pour the mixture into the cooled crust, scraping the sides of the blender with a rubber spatula. Using an off-set spatula or knife, spread the filling into the crust evenly.

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4. Place in the freezer to set.  It should set within 3-4 hours, but set best overnight.

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5. Hours before serving the pie, if it is completely frozen, remove it from the freezer and onto your kitchen counter. Let it sit for about 25 minutes.  Using a large sharp knife, cut slices. After you slice it, if you’re not going to serve it right away, place it in the refrigerator. Remove the pie from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving so it can fully defrost.

6. If you over-defrost the pie, just place it back in the refrigerator to let it set a bit.

7. Carefully plate the pieces of pie on dessert plates and top with whipped “cream.”

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