Monthly Archives: January 2014

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Vanilla Bean “Cheese”cake with Mixed Berry Compote

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Of all the desserts I make, my husband says this is his favorite.  That’s how I know this recipe for vanilla bean “cheese”cake with a mixed berry compote is definitely a winner!

I can honestly say that after indulging in a slice of this vegan “cheese”cake, I felt no guilt.   Perhaps, this may be due to my active lifestyle or maybe it’s because this cheesecake is vegan and raw– it doesn’t contain any cholesterol and its powerful vitamins, minerals and enzymes still remain intact.

Instead of eating empty calories, we get a healthy handful of nuts, berries, and raw coconut nectar.  There is coconut oil in the recipe, which is high in fat.  However, coconut oil does not contain cholesterol.  The oil comes in the form of medium-chain triglcerides (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

That said, if we eat well throughout the day and exercise a few times a week, this is a perfect dinner dessert!

I hope you love it as much as we do!

Vanilla Bean “Cheese”cake with Mixed Berry Compote

Servings 8
Time 1 day
V, GF, DF, R

Ingredients

Crust:
1/2 C raw almonds (pecan or walnuts will also work)
1/2 C soft Medjool dates
¼ tsp sea salt

Filling:
1 ½ C raw cashews, soaked for at least 3 hours, overnight is best
2 lemons, juiced
seeds of 1 vanilla bean
1/3 C raw coconut oil, melted
1/3 C raw coconut nectar (or maple syrup if you can’t find this)

Mixed Berry Compote:
1 1/2 C frozen organic berries: blueberries, blackberries, raspberries
2 tbsp coconut sugar
Stevia, to taste

Directions

1. Place nuts and dates in the food processor with sea salt and pulse to chop until they are to your desired fineness. You’ll want a finer crust than a chunky one. Test the crust by spooning out a small amount of mixture and rolling it in your hands. If the ingredients hold together, your crust is perfect. If you don’t feel it’s holding together, try to mix the mixture with your hands until it comes together.  Scoop out crust mixture into a 6″ spring-form pan (if you don’t have a spring-form pan, use a 6 inch cake round, lined with plastic wrap), and press firmly, making sure that the edges are well packed and that the base is relatively even throughout.

2. If coconut oil is solid, place oil in a small saucepan on low heat until it comes to a liquid state.

3. Place all filling ingredients in a blender and blend on high until very smooth (this may take a couple minutes).

4. Pour the filling out onto the crust and smooth with a spatula. Place in freezer until solid, about 3 hours.

5. To serve, remove from freezer 30 minutes prior to eating. Run a smooth, sharp knife under hot water and cut into slices. Serve on its own or with a berry compote! Store leftovers in the freezer.

Compote:

Option 1: If you want to enjoy the compote raw, mix together sugar and the berries.  Allow the berries to defrost. Sweeten with stevia or more sugar to taste.

Option 2: If you don’t mind heating the berries and want a more syrupy compote, like we enjoy, place the frozen berries and sugar in a small sauce pot on medium heat. Bring it to a boil for about 5-7 minutes, stirring every minute until it thickens a bit.  Remove from heat. Allow it to sit or pour the compote into a bowl and in the refrigerator to cool for about 5 minutes.  As it cools, it will thicken. Sweeten to taste with a little more sugar or stevia, if you so desire.

When ready to serve, top the “cheese”cake with a few spoonfuls of compote.  Enjoy!

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Quinoa Meatballs!

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Who doesn’t like a good meatball?  Well I’ve always been a big fan of them– on top of my spaghetti, in my meatball subs, and even in my movies (“Wedding Singer”).  They are just so good!  I’ve tested a bunch of vegan and gluten-free meatball recipes, but for a while, I wasn’t a fan of any of them.  One day, though, I serendipitously came up with an idea for a new meatball while I was making veggie burgers. I thought to myself, ‘hey- this mixture would make a mean meatball’.  The next day, I made the veggie patty recipe again, and instead of forming patties, I formed them into meatballs.  They were perfect!  I love their sturdy texture, they hold up in my sauce quite nicely, they taste good and they are also packed with lots of protein, fiber and warming foods.  With a good marinara, these meatballs are a winner! (Also, you can use this mixture to make burger patties, too!)

Quinoa Meatballs

Time: 45 minutes

Servings about 40 meatballs

V. GF, GFV, DF, SF, SRF, CFNF, NF

 

Ingredients

2 cups water

1 cup quinoa

3 garlic cloves, finely minced

1 onion, finely chopped

1/4 red pepper, finely chopped

3/4 poblano chile pepper, deseeded and destemmed, finely chopped (can sub with 4 jalapenos)

3 cups spinach, finely chopped

2 stalks of celery, finely minced

2 small carrots, peeled and minced

1.5 tsp celtic or Himalayan sea salt

1 tbsp of cumin

1/4 tsp + cayenne pepper

1 cup oat flour

 

Directions

1. Cook, drain and cool quinoa in filtered water.  Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the ingredients.

2. In a large sauté pan, over medium heat, add the onion, garlic, bell pepper, pasilla pepper, celery, and carrot and cook until onions are translucent.  You do not need any oil to sauté this mixture since the water from the onions and other veggies will seep out and will help cook the rest of the vegetables.

3. Add the salt, pepper, cumin, spinach and quinoa. Stir well and cook for an additional 3 minutes.  Remove the pan from heat and add the oat flour.  Stir well until everything starts to bind together and the mixture cools.  If it doesn’t bind together right away, add filtered water, a tablespoon at a time, at most 3-4 tablespoons.

4. Disclaimer: I recommend using gloves, or just have a slice of lime handy afterward because the hot peppers can burn your hands. Rubbing your hands with lime can help alleviate any burning.

Using your hands, form the mixture into meatballs, using 2 Tbsp of the mixture per meatball.

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5. Heat a large pan over medium heat (I recommend cooking on a non-stick pan) with 1 tablespoon of oil or use non-stick cooking spray (I use coconut cooking spray) to prevent sticking to the pan.  Brown all sides of the meatball.  Alternatively, brown them in shallow bath of oil on medium heat and remove when browned.  Drain on a paper towel.

6. Add the meatballs into your cooked marinara sauce, top your pasta with meatballs, or stuff your sandwich with meatballs.

Makes 40 meatballs.

Note: This mixture can also be used to make burger patties! I usually make a few patties to freeze or to enjoy the next day. :)

 

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Stuffed Mushrooms

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In my home, mushrooms are a kitchen staple.  I love them for their heartiness and meaty texture.  Whether I use them in stir-fries, on top of my pizzas, in soups, as burger buns, or as caps to stuff, mushrooms are always the highlight of my meals.

Did you know that mushrooms must be cooked in order to receive their nutritional benefits?  This is because their cell walls aren’t digestible unless exposed to heat.  Not to worry, mushrooms magically retain nutrients when grilled or stir-fried.  I like eating them for their Vitamin D content– about 1 cup of chopped portobellos gives you 400 IUs of vitamin D!  I also eat a lot in one serving because for every 1 1/2 cup of mushrooms there is 3 grams of protein.  Additionally, eating them regularly has been linked to lower the risk of breast (good for me) and prostate cancers (good for my husband) as they are rich in disease-fighting phytochemicals.  In shiitake, portobello, oyster and reishi mushrooms, a polysaccharide molecule called lentinan helps strengthen the immune system.  Even more, mushrooms provide vitamin C, iron, selenium, copper and as much potassium as a medium-sized banana. All this said, mushrooms are an understated superfood!

Even before I was vegan/gluten-free, I loved ordering stuffed mushrooms at restaurants.  Now that I am vegan/gluten-free, it’s odd and a little disappointing to me that I can’t find stuffed mushrooms on my local vegan restaurants’ menus.  So I brought it on myself to create a stuffed mushroom recipe that’s very pleasing to the palate.  They are vegan, gluten-free, soy-free and such a cinch to make!

These stuffed mushrooms are always a hit with my husband and my extended family.  I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

 

Stuffed Mushrooms

Servings: 2 to 4

Time: 35 – 40 minutes

Brief: These protein-rich stuffed mushrooms are easy to make, and are always a hit with my family and friends.

Diet: V, GF, GFV, SF, DF

 

Ingredients

6 medium fresh portabello mushrooms (or 12 small, bite-sized mushrooms)

1/4 cup onion, chopped

1 Tbsp garlic, minced

3/4 cup cashews, chopped finely

1/4 tsp lemon juice

2 Tbsp filtered water

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/16 – 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, depending on your desired level of heat

1/8 tsp sea salt

 

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare a 7″X10″ baking dish by spraying it with non-stick cooking spray.

2. Using a damp cloth, clean off dirt from the mushrooms.

3. Break off the stems and chop them finely.

4. Heat a sauté pan and add the onions, garlic, and mushrooms. No oil is necessary since the liquid from the onions and mushrooms will seep out when heated and will cook them.  Cook until the onions are translucent.

5. Remove the pan from heat and add the cashews, lemon juice, filtered water, sea salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper.  Mix very well and season with more salt, if needed.

6. Spoon the filling into the mushroom caps.  Place stuffed mushroom caps into the greased baking dish.  Bake for 27-33 minutes, until liquid puddles form beneath the mushroom caps. (If you use the bite-sized mushrooms, bake for about 20-25 minutes).

Enjoy!

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Creamy Pistachio Rose Dreamcake

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I would have to say that one of my favorite vegan desserts are the raw vegan cashew “cheese”cakes.  They are silky smooth, decadent, and oh-so delicious!  This next recipe is basically a raw vegan cashew-pistachio “cheese”cake with a whisper of rose and kiss of cardamom.  Since these cakes are quite rich, I make them in a 6″ cake pan and then cut them into eighths.  Each eighth slice is a perfect portion (for me, at least)– not too much or too little, just right!  The raw cake is packed with live enzymes, which nutritionist Kimberly Snyder states, “are proteins that catalyze hundreds of different processes in the body.  This includes breaking down fats, enhancing mental capacity, purifying the blood, and renewing aging skin.”

Since the flavors of pistachio, rose, and cardamom are common in Persian desserts, it was fitting that I took this treat over to my Persian/Iranian-American in-laws for one of our weekly family dinners.  And, let me tell  you, it was a hit.  They absolutely loved it!

I hope you enjoy it as much they do.  It is divine!

 

Creamy Pistachio Rose Dreamcake

Serves 8

Prep Time: 1 day

DF, V, GF, GFV, SF, R

Ingredients

Crust:

1 cup pistachios

2 1/2 tbsp coconut nectar

1/2 tsp cardamom, ground

pinch of salt

Filling:

1 cup cashews, soaked in filtered water in the refrigerator overnight

1/2 cup pistachios, soaked in filtered water in the refrigerator overnight

1/3 cup coconut nectar

stevia drops, optional

1 tbsp rose water

1/3 cup filtered water

1/3 cup coconut oil, melted

Directions

1. If you don’t have a 6″ spring-form pan, line a 6 inch round cake pan with plastic wrap, using 2 pieces.

2. Place all of the crust’s ingredients into the processor and pulse to chop until you reach your desired fineness.  You want a finer crust than a chunky one.  Test the crust by spooning out a small amount of mixture and rolling it in your hands. If the ingredients hold together, your crust is perfect. If you don’t feel it’s holding together, try to mix the mixture with your hands until it comes together.  Scoop out the crust mixture into the 6″ pan and press firmly, making sure that the edges are well packed and that the base is relatively even throughout.

3. If coconut oil is solid, place the oil in a small saucepan on low heat until it comes to a liquid state.

4. In your most powerful blender, place all of filling ingredients and blend on high until very smooth.  This make take a couple minutes. Taste the filling and sweeten to taste. Add either a little more coconut nectar or stevia.

5. Pour the mixture out onto the crust and smooth it evenly with an offset spatula or silicone spatula.  Place in freezer until solid for at least 3-4 hours.

6. To serve, remove from the freezer, removing any plastic, 30 minutes prior to eating and top with raspberries.  Run a smooth, sharp knife under hot water and cut into slices.

If you happen to have leftovers, store in the freezer.  Also, for a lighter colored cake, use blonde coconut nectar.

Enjoy!

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Oriental Cabbage Salad

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While perusing the ready-made food section at Whole Foods Market, I spotted an aesthetically pleasing salad that I wanted to take home with me.  However, after reading the salad’s ingredients and discovering that agave nectar is one of them, I changed my mind and decided to make my own crunchy cabbage salad at home.

Have I ever mentioned that I never cook with agave nectar?   It is heated while processed so it is not truly raw.  It also has a low glycemic index, but actually contains more fructose than high fructose corn syrup!  No, thank you!

My natural sweeteners of choice are as follows:

1) Erythritol, a naturally-derived, sugar subsitute that contains almost zero calories and has a zero glycemic index. It is a sugar alcohol that occurs naturally in some fruits and fermented foods. Erythritol tastes, bakes, and measures like sugar, but has 70% the sweetness of sugar. It’s safe for diabetics, has no digestive discomfort, has prebiotic activity, and does not feed the bacteria in your mouth. Compared to stevia, it doesn’t have a bitter aftertaste. I use the Swerve brand.

2) Pure, 100% stevia extract, a natural, no-calorie sweetener, which is extracted from the leaves of a plant. Beware, it can have a bitter aftertaste if used in high doses. Also, be sure to purchase the pure extract. Not all stevia products should be treated equally. Some are very processed and include additives like lactose!

3) Raw coconut nectar for its low glycemic index and because it contains much less fructose (about 20%) than agave (which can contain up to 90% fructose).  Coconut sugar contains 12 of the B vitamins, including riboflavin, thiamine, pyridoxine, biotin, nicotinic acid, pyridoxal and inositol.  It also has minerals including calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, copper, manganese, phosphorus and boron. Although coconut sugar has many benefits, it should be eaten sparingly.  It is high in calories and you would have to eat a large amount of it to satisfy your need for the nutritional benefits.  However, when you do enjoy your sugar switching from regular processed white sugar to coconut palm sugar is a good idea.   It could prevent blood sugar crashes that make us hungry and may lead to weight gain due to coconut sugar’s low glycemic index and lower fructose level.

Back to the cabbage salad (at Whole Foods it’s called “Cabbage Crunch”).  This is my vegan and gluten-free version of Chinese chicken salad or Oriental chicken salad.  It may not be the healthiest as it contains healthy fats and low fructose/low GI sugars, but it contains a lot of sesame seeds and tahini that are packed with essential minerals, manganese, copper, iron, phosphorus and calcium and Vitamin E.  This recipe also includes almonds, which are high in protein and fiber.  I use coconut vinegar in this salad because I personally feel that it tastes much better than apple cider vinegar, plus coconut vinegar has more nutrients—17 amino acids, minerals, vitamin C, broad-spectrum B vitamins, and has a nearly neutral pH.

I hope you enjoy this refreshing and delicious salad along with all of its benefits!

 

Oriental Cabbage Salad

DF, V, GF, GFV, SF, NF, R

Prep Time 10 minutes

Servings 2-4

Ingredients

Salad:

4 cups green cabbage, shredded

1/2 cup green onion, chopped

1/4 cup sesame seeds (toasted sesame seeds is optional)

1/2 cup slivered almonds

Dressing:

3 Tbsp coconut vinegar (can substitute with apple cider vinegar)

1 tbsp sunflower oil

1 Tbsp tahini

1/2 Tbsp filtered water

1 1/2 Tbsp coconut palm sugar

2 drops stevia (or 1/2 tsp more coconut palm sugar)

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions

1. In a large bowl, add the shredded cabbage, green onion, sesame seeds and slivered almonds. Toss. Set aside.

2. In a small bowl, combine all of the dressing ingredients and whisk together to combine.

3. Pour the dressing over the cabbage salad and toss well to coat.

4. Chill or serve on salad plates.  Enjoy!

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Asparagus Soup

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Asparagus soup – one of my favorite meals as a child!  Strange, I know, but there is story behind it.  When I was 4 years old, my dad would sometimes watch me in the mornings while my mom attended school in the mornings.  I can remember my dad “attempting” to pick out my clothes, brushing the tangles out of my hair, and giving me messy ponytails.  He coached me on how to tie my shoelaces by having me practice tying bows on one of my dresses over and over again until I had it just right. My dad also encouraged me to practice reading by singing on the karaoke machine and flipping through our many volumes of the encyclopedia.  One day, I asked him to build me a tree house, and without saying a word, he stuck a cigarette in his mouth, and built the tree house.  I felt like a lucky girl!  I had my dad’s undivided attention (I am the youngest of 6 girls) and I could be a daddy’s girl for once.

Since all of my sisters were in school at the time, he’d usually take me out for lunch at Jimmy’s Restaurant. My dad always ordered me a big bowl of soup and after trying all of Jimmy’s soups, my favorites were the asparagus and the clam chowder.  I distinctly remember my dad noticing that I favored asparagus soup so after a while he only ordered me the asparagus soup.  I didn’t mind.  I loved  asparagus soup with 2 packs of saltine crackers on top.

Little did I know, the main ingredient in the soup was good for me.  Asparagus has tons of benefits!  The goodness is in the stalk, which is rich in B vitamins, known to regulate blood sugar levels; it is also a good source of Vitamin K, which is excellent for healthy blood clotting and strengthening bones, and vitamin A for better vision, potassium for smooth kidney functioning, and trace minerals that help boost immunity.  Asparagus is a good source of protein and fiber, making it great for digestion, and with it’s inflammatory compounds can help protect you from type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  Additionally, asparagus has antioxidants, such as glutathione, which protects the skin from sun damage and the effects of aging, and contains a unique carbohydrate known as inulin that remains undigested until it reaches the large intestine, where it helps to absorb nutrients better, cutting the risk of colon cancer.

Today I created an asparagus soup that’s super yummy.  This soup can be eaten raw, warmed, or cooked.  You decide.  I felt like eating it warm today so I simmered the ingredients in a pot on medium heat for about 7 minutes (until al dente) and then simply added half an avocado to my blender with the warm soup ingredients and voila, it was ready to eat. So good!  For a complete meal, this recipe is good for one serving, and as a starter, this will serve 2.

Since I always think of my dad when I see asparagus, I am dedicating this soup recipe to my dad who is no longer in this world.  I wish he had eaten more vegetables while he was alive so we could have shared more good times together.  For now, I am left with memories, and I will cherish all of the good memories of my dad, always.

This one’s for you, Papasan!

Dedication song, “Gold Dust” by John Newman.

 

ASPARAGUS SOUP

DF, V, GF, GFV, SF, NF R

Prep Time 5-12 minutes

Servings 2

Ingredients

1/2 pound (about 2 cups) asparagus, trimmed of fibrous bottoms and chopped into thirds

heaping 1/3 cup sweet onion

1 cup vegetable stock

1/2 cup almond milk

1/4 tsp sea salt

1-2 shakes cayenne pepper

2 tsp lemon juice

1/2 avocado (about 1/4 cup)

 

Directions

1. a) If eating this soup raw, place all ingredients into blender, except for 4 asparagus tops for garnish, and process until smooth.  Adjust sea salt, cayenne pepper and lemon juice to taste. Garnish with asparagus tops and enjoy!

b) If eating warmed or cooked soup, add all of the ingredients to a small saucepot, EXCEPT for the avocado.

2. Cover and place the pot on medium heat for 3 minutes.  Turn down the heat to a simmer (medium-low heat) until desired level of tenderness. If you want it less cooked, cook until the asparagus are al dente (with a bite, some crispness), about 7 more minutes. Otherwise, cook until tender.

3. Place the avocado in the blender, reserve 4 asparagus stems for garnish and texture, and carefully pour the soup into the blender and process until smooth.  Taste and adjust sea salt, cayenne pepper, and lemon juice to taste.

4. Pour into 2 bowls or one large bowl and garnish with the asparagus tops and enjoy!

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