Monthly Archives: December 2013

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Snackers Crackers

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My snackers crackers are a delicious snack that happens to be good for you– a winning combination!  They are packed with super foods, whole foods, lots of protein, fiber, omega-3’s, healthy fats and minerals.

If you’re looking for a hearty, healthy snack, look no further.  These are quite easy to make; plus, they’re vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, and refined sugar-free!

Some of my friends with kids use this recipe to make crackers for their kids, using fun cookie cutters to make them more appealing. Mother- and kid-approved, enjoy these by themselves, or with vegan “cheese”, dips, or smashed avocado.

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Snackers 

Time 45 minutes

Servings about 40-45 crackers

 

Ingredients

1 cup almond meal

1 cup cooked quinoa

1/3 unhulled sesame seeds and or black sesame seeds

1/4 cup flax seeds

1 tbsp coconut aminos (or tamari)

1/4 heaping tsp coconut sugar

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 1/2 tbsp coconut oil

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tbsp chives, chopped

1/2 tsp parsley, chopped

1/2 tsp oregano, chopped

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper

4 tbsp pumpkin seeds

2 tbsp walnuts, chopped

 

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Place flax seeds in a bowl and cover with 1/4 cup of filtered water. Set aside for at least 20 minutes to soak.  Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the ingredients.

3. In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast sesame seeds (if not already toasted) until fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside.

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4. In a food processor, blend together the cooled quinoa, almond meal, soaked flax seed, chives, parsley, oregano, garlic powder, crushed red pepper, sea salt, coconut sugar, coconut aminos or tamari, coconut oil.  Process until a dough is formed.  It should form into a ball. If it does not come together, add filtered water, a tablespoon at a time.  Add sesame seeds and pulse to incorporate. The dough should be very sticky at this point. Place into a medium-large bowl.

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5. Add pumpkin seeds and walnuts and mix, using your clean hands, to incorporate. Season to taste.

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6. Between 2 pieces of parchment paper, roll out the dough evenly with a rolling pin to achieve a very thin, even slab. Remove the top layer of the parchment.  Using a knife, score the dough into desired shapes.

7. Slide the parchment paper onto a half sheet pan and place it in the oven for 25 minutes. Turn oven down to 300 degrees so as to not overly brown crackers. Bake for 10-15 more minutes or until crispy and golden.

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8. When crackers are done, remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes.

9. Break crackers along score lines, let them cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Note: if crackers baked unevenly, meaning some crackers are crispy and others are not, place the uncooked ones back on the half sheet pan and in the oven until entirely dry.

10. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Crackers keep for one week.

Enjoy them with avocado or my Cranberry Dill Vegan Goat Cheese!

 

 

 

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Thin Mints

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‘Tis the season to bake cookies and to eat chocolate and peppermint!

Growing up, I was the kid that loved Junior Mints, York Peppermint Patties, and Andes after-dinner mints. When I grew older, I discovered the Thin Mint and fell in love!  If you’re not from the United States, you may be wondering, “what is a Thin Mint?” Well it’s not a breath mint or a soft peppermint candy.  A Thin Mint is a crispy mint-chocolate cookie covered in a rich, smooth, mint-chocolate coating.  It’s so good!  Thin Mint cookies are also sold exclusively by the Girls Scouts during their cookie season.

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A few years back, while working at the Tavern in Brentwood – Los Angeles, CA with former head pastry chef, Breanne Varela, we made Thin Mint cookies.  Breanne came up some of the most fun, nostalgic, and tasty sweet treats.  Recently, I skimmed through five of my old notebooks that were created during my time working in professional kitchens and found, among many others, Breanne’s recipe for Thin Mint cookies.  It’s amazing how much I learned from her – I will forever be grateful for all the guidance and instruction.  In the process of reading through my notebooks, I was inspired to not only make the Thin Mints but to make many more sweet treats!

As you may have already figured out, my vegan and gluten-free Thin Mint recipe cookie is adapted from Breanne’s recipe.  Believe me when I say this…they taste almost the same!  I hope you try this recipe and love it as much as I do!

 

Thin Mint Cookies

Time: 40 minutes

Makes about 24 cookies

 

Cookie Ingredients

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted

6 tbsp coconut palm sugar (pulverized in the blender so it’s fine… or powdered sugar)

1 tbsp chia seeds

3 tbsp filtered water

1/2 tsp vanilla extract (no alcohol)

1  1/4 cup oat flour (gluten-free)

1/4 cup cacao powder

1/2 tsp peppermint extract

 

Chocolate-Mint Coating Ingredients

2 cups of vegan chocolate chips

1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp cocoa butter

1/4 tsp peppermint oil (must be peppermint oil or the chocolate will seize up and be ruined)

 

 Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.

2. Place the chia seeds, room temperature water, coconut oil, vanilla extract, peppermint extract and coconut sugar in a high-powered blender for one minute or until the chia seeds are pulverized. Place the mixture in a bowl of a stand mixer, scraping out the contents of the blender completely with a silicone spatula.

3.  Using a paddle attachment, add the cacao powder, scraping the side of the bowl.  Add the oat flour, and mix just until combined.

4. Cut the dough in half and between two 12-inch wide pieces of parchment paper, roll one half of the dough 2/16 – 3/16th of an inch thick.  Using a 2 1/2 inch in diameter circular cookie cutter or glass cup, cut circles.

4.  Chill the cut circles on a cutting board in the freezer so they don’t break and are easier to handle.

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2 minutes in the freezer should be fine. Once they are chilled and easier to handle, place the circles on a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silpat mat. 15 should fit perfectly on the sheet pan.  Repeat until all the dough is used.

5.  Bake in preheated 350 degree F oven for 10 minutes.  Once the cookies are baked, keep the cookies on the pan for at least 4 minutes so they don’t fall apart then transfer them to a cooling rack.

6.  Put the chocolate chips and cocoa butter in a medium heatproof bowl.  Fill a medium saucepan with a couple inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off the heat or set it to very very low; set the bowl of chocolate over the water to melt. Stir constantly until smooth. (Alternatively, melt the chocolate and cocoa butter in a microwave at half power, for 1 minute, stir and then heat for another minute or until melted. I, unfortunately don’t have much luck with this method.)  Make sure that your silicone spatula and bowl is dry.  A drop of water will seize the chocolate and you will not be able to neatly coat your cookies if your chocolate is seized.

7.  Once the chocolate and cocoa butter are melted and smooth, add the peppermint oil, not to be confused with peppermint extract.  If you add peppermint extract, the chocolate will seize and be unusable.  Taste the mint chocolate and adjust to taste. Add more peppermint if you want it super duper minty.  Mix thoroughly. Remove from the heat.

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8. Line a sheet pan with parchment or waxed paper. Holding the cookie on a candy dipping fork or regular fork, dip the cookie into the chocolate then hold the cookie on the fork.  With your silicone spatula, pour some chocolate over the cookie and gently smoothen it out (alternatively, use a small ladle to coat the cookie with chocolate), letting any excess chocolate fall back into the bowl. Scrape the bottom of the cookie on the edge of the bowl so as to not drench the parchment with puddles of excess chocolate or “feet”. Repeat with the rest of the cookies.

 


9.  Before the melted chocolate sets on the cookies, sprinkle them with sprinkles of your choice.  It helps to sprinkle them at least a foot above the cookies.

10.  Chill the cookies in the refrigerator and enjoy once they are set!

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Yellow Curry

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Yellow curry frequents my cravings about every other month which simultaneously satiates my palate and the health nut in me. The fact is that the rich and thick soup base is comprised mainly of coconut milk.  Although coconut milk is known to have many benefits, there’s usually another side to the coin.

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Coconut milk is not to be confused with the lower-calorie coconut water;  it is made from a brew of water and coconut meat. Rich and thick and more like heavy cream, coconut milk packs a whopping 445 calories and 48 grams of fat (43 grams saturated) per cup.  It’s high in saturated fatty acids and medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), which are both easily burned as fuel for the body.  MCTs are beneficial in that they don’t require bile acids for digestion, and they’re directly passed to the liver through the portal vein.  Moreover, although coconut milk is fattening, it doesn’t contain cholesterol. It comes in the form of medium-chain triglycerides (or MCTs) which differ from types of fat consumed from both plant and animal sources, long-chain triglycerides (or LCTs).

“MCTs are easily digested, absorbed, and utilized in the body because their molecules are smaller than those from LCTs. This means that unlike other fats, they require less energy and fewer enzymes to break them down for digestion. They are an excellent choice of fat for active people and athletes as MCTs digest immediately to produce energy and stimulate metabolism. They are also ideal for those who suffer from digestive disorders and are often given in hospitals to provide nourishment for critically ill people who have trouble digesting fat.“ -Sarah Britton

Attempting to use light coconut milk seemed to compromise the rich flavor.  I’ve come to the conclusion that full fat coconut milk is what the recipe calls for in order to create full addicting flavor that initially attracted me to it.

Coconut milk aside, there are other healthy aspects to the recipe.  It contains turmeric.  Ingesting turmeric helps make the skin glow and beautiful.  In addition, there are interesting tidbits to the primary active ingredient in turmeric which is called curcumin. It is being evaluated in clinical trials for treating cancer (UT, MD Anderson Cancer Center).  Researchers at the UCLA are investigating whether the spice may have benefits for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.  The anti-cancer potential of curcumin is also being investigated intensively at the College of Staten Island, CUNY.  Turmeric is also a potent antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties.  Medicinal properties of turmeric have been recognized for millennia in the traditional Indian and Chinese medical systems. Statistical studies suggest that populations that consume approximately 500 mg of turmeric daily have reduced incidences of colon cancer (Molecular Nutrition & Food Research  2008, Volume 52, issue 9).

 “It is evident from these facts that making turmeric an integral part of the daily American diet will have a tremendous positive impact on the health of our citizens.

Turmeric and Curcumin have anti-aging and detoxifying properties. The role of Turmeric in preserving youthfulness and beauty has been a part of the Indian culture for thousands of years. Curcumin and other components in Turmeric arrest cellular aging by capturing free radicals that cause DNA damage. Turmeric works on numerous biochemical pathways that beneficial to maintaining youthfulness, Curcumin chelates (binds) toxic metal ions; it is also a powerful ant-inflammatory agent.”

For more information on the health benefits of turmeric, check out http://www.spreadhealthfoods.com/.

Another dominant ingredient in this curry is kabocha squash, my favorite squash.  It is a low carb alternative to butternut squash.  A single cup of kabocha squash has only forty calories per cup compared to butternut squash, which has sixty calories, and it has less than half the carbs of butternut squash (7 grams vs. 16 grams) per one cup serving.

Despite its lower calorie and carb count, kabocha squash is an excellent source of beta-carotene, which can be converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is important for healthy white blood cells, for good immunity and for healthy night vision.  In fact, a serving of kabocha squash provides 70% of the day’s recommended requirements. It also helps to keep skin and hair healthy.  Also, beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and is a good source of iron, vitamin C and some B vitamins. It also contains fiber, and to boost the fiber content even more, cook it with the edible skin still on.

Now that I’ve disclosed some pros and cons, I hope you realize there are more benefits to feasting on yellow curry.  A good trick to make this even more flavorful is to make it in advance.  This curry tastes so much better the next day.  If you have time to make this in advance, I suggest making it one day ahead– store it in the refrigerator overnight, and enjoy it the next day.  Overnight, the flavors marry so well– it’s really beautiful and delicious.  There are so many levels of flavor in this dish. I love it.

I hope you try it and love it, too!

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Yellow Curry

Servings: 4-5

Time: 30 minutes

Brief: A good trick to make this even more flavorful is to make it in advance.  This curry tastes so much better the next day.  If you have time to make this in advance, I suggest making it one day ahead– store it in the refrigerator overnight, and enjoy it the next day.  Overnight, the flavors marry so well.

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

 

Ingredients

2 large shallots or 1/3 cup red onion, chopped

2-inch piece of ginger or galangal, grated

5 cloves garlic, minced

1-2 red Thai, serrano, or jalapeno chilies or 1/2 to 1 tsp. dried crushed red chili flakes, adjust to your preferred spiciness

1 tsp ground coriander

2 1/2 tsp ground cumin

3/4 tsp ground turmeric

2 pinches of cayenne pepper

2 bay leaves

1/2 cup vegetable stock

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

2-3 cups kabocha squash or sweet potato, peeled and cubed

2 red jacket potatoes, cubed

1 handful of green beans, sliced

1 handful mushrooms, (crimini and or oyster), sliced

1 – 14 ounce can full fat coconut milk

3 Tbsp coconut aminos (or Tamari or Bragg’s liquid aminos)

1 stalk lemongrass, minced (or 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice)

2 Tbsp coconut palm sugar

2 Tbsp ketchup or tomato paste

1 tsp ume plum vinegar, optional

1/4 cup fresh Thai basil (or sweet basil)

1 Tbsp coconut oil or grapeseed or sunflower  oil

Note: It’s easier to mince lemon grass in a food processor

 

Directions

1. Heat a medium-large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Drizzle in oil and swirl around.  Add shallots, ginger, garlic and chili.  Cook and stir for 3 minutes.  Add the dry spices: coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne and bay leaves and cook for another minute while stirring.

2. Add the vegetable stock, carrot, squash, potatoes, and mushrooms, stirring well. Add the coconut milk and bring it to a gentle boil.

3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes (for a thicker curry, do not cover). While simmering, combine the coconut aminos, lime juice (or lemongrass), coconut palm sugar, and ketchup in a bowl and add it to the saucepan. Stir well. Continue simmering until the vegetables are cooked to your liking.

4. Taste the curry and adjust to taste.  Add more coconut aminos if you prefer it saltier/more flavorful. If it’s too salty or sweet for your liking, add more lime juice. Add more coconut sugar if you find it too sour. More chili or cayenne pepper can be added for more heat. Although, I enjoy this more overnight, you can eat it right away.

5. Transfer to a serving dish and top with plenty of fresh basil. Serve with quinoa, brown jasmine or black rice, or over a mixture of quinoa and brown rice.

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