Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Raw Beet and Fennel Salad

This is one of the most amazing salads I have ever tasted. Maybe it's because I'm in love with beets at the moment. Or that fresh fennel and cucumber is a heavenly delight. Or maybe it's that all this raw food is going straight to my head. Regardless of the reasons, it is a delicious and very easy-to-make salad.

If you are lucky enough to have a mandoline, then it's time to pull it out. If not, then grab your sharpest knife and get to work. I do not have a mandoline so I did this by hand. The beauty of this salad is the thin slicing. Even if you do not think you will like the taste of raw beets, when they are paper-thin, they are very delicious. If you are nervous about trying the raw beets, I also recommend letting them soak overnight in the dressing to soften up a bit. I tried this with some leftover salad and it was even better the next day.

I've made several batches of this over the past week and have begun to use a vegetable peeler on the beets. A peeler will give you perfectly thin slices without a ton of work. Experiment for yourself and see what you like best. Be sure to report your findings!

These past two weekends have been so beautiful that even with my CSA produce, I have to make a trip to the farmer's market. You can find pretty much everything that you need for this salad at the market. If you don't want to use cabbage, then feel free to use fresh greens instead.

Serves 2.

1 head of cabbage (I used green)
4 radishes, thinly sliced
1 large fennel bulb (or two medium), thinly sliced
2 small carrots, thinly sliced
1 red beet, thinly sliced
1 golden beet, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, thinly sliced

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbs agave (or to taste)
1 1/2 Tbs. Dijon mustard

Puree mint, lemon juice, oil, agave, and mustard in a blender until smooth. Prepare your vegetables. You can either arrange them on a plate and drizzle with the dressing or you can toss the dressing with the salad. (I told you it was easy!)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Horchatas and Plum Bistro

This weekend I discovered horchatas. This weekend changed my life. If you've never tried a horchata before, here's what you need to know:
  • it's an amazing sweet, cinnamon-y, and creamy beverage
  • the traditional version is made with rice milk (thus, dairy-free!)
  • it originated in Spain, but is now popular all throughout Latin America
I tried it at Plum Bistro and loved it enough to come home and immediately make a batch of my own. I've been drinking it every day since. Other horchata recipes that I've found tell you to make the rice milk from scratch. This sounds like a great idea, but I went ahead and used pre-made rice milk. Other recipes also call for sugar, but my preference is agave. You be the judge. Here's how to make your own little cup of heaven:

Serves 2.

2 cups rice milk
1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup almonds

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 Tbs agave (or to taste)

Blend the rice milk, almonds, and cinnamon together. Strain using a nut milk bag. Add the agave and vanilla extract. Serve over ice.

And, before we get too far off the subject, I highly recommend you check out Plum Bistro on Capitol Hill. We went for brunch and had a fabulous meal of Mexican Tacos, Biscuits in Chili Chorizo Gravy, and Sweet Potato Fries covered with fresh aioli. The restaurant itself is beautiful and no one can complain about a 100% vegan and mostly organic menu. Happy Summer!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Chocolates, Coconuts, and Self-Care

Chocolate. Thursday was my birthday. I'm not big on celebrations, but (as you may know) I am big on food. These long, summery days and beautiful sunsets call for something sweet. I don't know about you, but I am a huge chocolate fan. This in itself is not a problem. The problem is when you factor in being a vegan and the fact that I love milk chocolate. Well, The Chocolate Shoe Box on 7410 Greenwood Ave N has solved this problem.

I have yet to visit their store in person, but I can tell you that their chocolate is amazing- regardless of whether you are vegan. They have everything from gluten-free cookies to peppermint truffles. A big THANK YOU to a co-worker of mine who organized an entire vegan chocolate tasting for our office on my birthday. I could not have been more thrilled!

Coconuts. Coconut water, huh? Yep, coconut water. The first time I tried coconut water was about five years ago and I thought it was the most disgusting thing I'd ever tasted. Well, let me assure you that tastes evolve. It's taken me several years to learn to like it, but now I love it. In fact, instead of having late-night sugar cravings, I have late-night coconut water cravings. It's that good.

What's the big deal about coconut water? I've read many times that it is the closest thing there is to blood plasma. During WWII, coconut water was used in the Pacific to give emergency transfusions. It's also an amazing source of electrolytes and minerals and is great for hydrating your body.

You can find coconut water packaged at most health food stores and some Whole Foods locations even carry the young coconuts already cut open. It is important to use a young coconut because as the coconuts ripen, the water will turn to flesh. Last night on my late-night coconut water craving run, I was unable to find coconuts that were already cut open, so I embraced my fears and did it myself. In case you've never embarked on opening a young coconut, let me tell you 1.) once it is open, you will be glad and proud that you did it and 2.) it is #*You can find coconut water packaged at most health food stores and some Whole Foods locations even carry the young coconuts already cut open. It is important to use a young coconut because as the coconuts ripen, the water will turn to flesh. Last night on my late-night coconut water craving run, I was unable to find coconuts that were already cut open, so I embraced my fears and did it myself. In case you've never embarked on opening a young coconut, let me tell you 1.) once it is open, you will be glad and proud that you did it and 2.) it is f*$#7% hard to open without a cleaver.

The Raw Food Detox Diet by Natalia Rose is where I first learned how to cut open a young coconut. Here's how in case you ever want to try it yourself:

Choose a preshaved, young coconut with a white exterior. Set the coconut on a firm, steady surface. Place your non-cleaver hand behind your back and leave it there no matter what happens. Place the cleaver on the upper third of the coconut (about 4 inches from the peak of the coconut), and mark where you will strike it. Lift the cleaver to about shoulder height, and, keeping your eye on the mark, come down on it with force. Work your way around the peak of the coconut such that, once you've made four or five cleaver marks, the top of the coconut will lift off like a little hat. Inside, it should look crisp and white. Enjoy the water or set it aside for later use, and then use a spoon to enjoy the coconut "flesh."

*Please note that if you ever open a coconut and it is even slightly pink, it's gone bad and needs to be thrown out.

Self-care. On my birthday, someone asked me what was the most important lesson that I learned this year. I've spent a couple of days thinking about the answer and realized that this year I learned the importance of taking care of myself and putting my needs first. I am by no means a self-care expert, but I am getting better.

If you are interested in self-care, I highly recommend reading Cheryl Richardson's The Art of Extreme Self-Care. I believe that every person needs to read this book because it will transform your life. I also think it is particularly important for women because of the way that we are socialized to be caretakers for others and put ourselves last. Cheryl Richardson is a life coach and has written many different books on creating changes in your life.

I love all of the lessons that I have learned this past year and how many, many more I know are to come in my life. I love that as I have gotten older, I have learned how to create more meaningful relationships and friendships. I love that my makeup bag has gotten smaller and smaller. (True beauty is on the inside anyway, right?) And I love all of the amazing things I have learned to cook and getting to share them with you.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Raw Zippy Summer Gazpacho

Today I went to my first PCC Cooks course: Summer Flavors with Fresh Juices taught by Cherie Calbom (aka "The Juice Lady"). It was absolutely delicious and inspiring! She's written a ton of different books on juicing to lose weight, prevent disease, and boost your immune system. I definitely encourage you to check out her work if you are interested in learning more about juicing or detoxing.

I bought a copy of Juicing, Fasting, and Detoxing for Life: Unleash the healing power of fresh juices and cleansing diets. It has a lot of information on detoxing and has an entire section on liver, gallbladder, and kidney cleansing. I can't wait to get started!

With my recent gallstone diagnosis, I've been thinking a lot about my gallbladder and working even harder to detox my body. Cherie has her own amazing story about how juicing and incorporating raw foods into her diet changed the state of her health. I've been working towards eating mostly raw food for the last couple of months and had my first 99% raw day today. So far, so good! She said it takes about 3 months for your body to begin to make significant changes. I firmly believe that food should be thy medicine and so my hope is to be able to heal my gallbladder and my body without surgery. We'll just have to see what happens from here.

I'm excited to share with you one of the recipes that Cherie made at today's class. It was so delicious that I had to come home and make it right away for myself. Summertime is the perfect time to incorporate more raw foods into your diet so I encourage you to think about your own body and try some raw food for yourself. Enjoy!

Serves 2.

2 tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 cup fresh carrot juice (about 5-7 carrots)
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons cilantro, rinsed and chopped
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 small jalapeno, chopped
3 radishes

Place the tomato chunks in a freezer bag and freeze until solid. Pour the carrot and lemon juices into a blender and add the frozen tomato chunks, cilantro, salt, cumin, jalapeno, and radishes. Blend on high until smooth, but slushy. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Raw Carob Mousse

Can you believe it's mid-July? It's time to get serious about summer! What's on your summer list? Going on vacation anywhere? Spending some time with family and friends? How about special dinner plans?

I had a big epiphany the other day. Here it goes: I am a procrastinator. (For anyone that knows me I'm sure you're confused, but hold on just a sec.) I am a procrastinator of fun. I realized that I am great at getting all the boring, tedious, and stressful things done - homework, cleaning my apartment, dentist appointments, you name it. Yet, I never make fun a priority. I always tell myself that seeing that movie can wait or that it isn't the "right time" to go on vacation. I think it's time I work on my procrastination. :)

So, here are my NEW top priorities for the summer. Hopefully we can inspire each other to keep fun a priority in our lives!
  • go on vacation
  • visit a lavender farm
  • go to the beach
  • hiking!
  • go to the spa
  • visit with friends more often
  • watch TV (yes, this is a top priority!)
  • bike to work
  • pick berries
  • read in the sun
  • meditate
  • eat amazing food and share it with you on this blog
The amazing food part starts right now. And what better way to enjoy the delectable fruits of summer than paired with raw carob mousse. Have you ever tried a raw dessert? If yes, then I'm sure you'll love this one. If not, then you need to change that ASAP.

One of the things I love most about raw desserts is that they are super easy to make. A food processor. A few ingredients. And then pure dessert bliss. It's perfect on a hot day when you don't feel like turning on your oven or standing in your kitchen in the heat. Are you ready? Then grab some avocados and let's get to it!

Okay, before we start, I guess I better explain the avocado part. I don't want you to embark on this raw mousse journey thinking you're about to make brown guacamole. Avocados give this dessert its creamy texture and provide a healthy dose of fat. However, I promise that you won't taste them!

I love eating this dessert alone, but I love it even more with fresh fruit. You can dip strawberries in it or layer it as a parfait with a variety of fruits. It always looks elegant when served in a martini glass.

Serves 4.

2 avocados
1-2 Tbs vanilla extract (use it according to your taste)
1/4 cup raw agave nectar
1/4 cup raw carob powder
1 Tb coconut oil (optional - this makes it really creamy with a slight coconut flavor, but you can also leave it out)

Add the avocados, vanilla extract, and agave to your blender or food processor. A food processor works better, but I used my blender. As it mixes, slowly add the carob powder. Then add the coconut oil if using. It will probably take awhile to blend so be patient. You will need a spatula to scrape down the sides and make sure that it mixes completely - you don't want any green avocado chunks! Serve and enjoy!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Chocolate Hemp Soft Serve

I got your attention with the soft serve, didn't I? Yeah, I knew that would intrigue you. Especially on hot days like this! Should you be in need of some vegan soft serve too, head on over to Healeo on Capitol Hill. (Sorry non-Seattlelites, you're outta luck on this one!) Their chocolate hemp soft serve is amazing and it comes with your choice of toppings. They also have a wide selection of fresh juices, raw foods, and supplements. I think I know where I'll be this summer...

I got some interesting news that I wanted to share. I've written on this blog about how I became vegan due to my digestive issues. After 11 years of suffering from stomach pain, it has been getting worse in the last few months. I began seeing a naturopath recently and we did an ultrasound. It turns out that I have gallstones.

If your reaction is anything like mine, it might go something like this... Gallstones? What the heck is that? Ok, gall-stones- stones in the gallbladder. And where is the gallbladder? What does it do again? Oh, it stores bile, right? Bile helps digestion... ohh, that explains a lot.

I have to admit I was pretty clueless about gallstones before this. I find it fascinating how many things our bodies deal with on a daily basis: processing nutrients, removing waste and toxins, fighting disease... our bodies are pretty amazing. Yet, we tend to forget about our bodies until something goes wrong. Today I am very grateful to my body and I know that, in sickness and in health, we are in this together.

At this point, there's a lot of waiting around for more tests and getting more information to determine if I should get my gallbladder removed. Until we have the next steps figured out, I am working on my own healing plan: good nutrition, physical activity, self-care (i.e. more trips to the spa and the beach), and meditation/visualization exercises.

I have a couple of hopes in sharing this story with you. The first is to remind you of the importance of your body and that, regardless of your current state of health, I hope that you are taking care of yourself. Self-care means different things to different people, but my wish is that you make time - in whatever way is best for you - to nourish your body, mind, and soul. It makes a difference.

My second hope is that my experience inspires you to trust your instincts and listen to your body. I've known for a long time that something was wrong and I knew that my diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) wasn't it. I know the frustration of years of doctor's visits with no tangible results. However, the one thing that you can do is listen to your body. Your body will tell you exactly what it wants and needs.

My body told me that I needed to stop eating meat and dairy. It turns out that a vegan diet like mine that involves lots of raw foods and limited soy and gluten is the perfect diet for the treatment of gallstones. Had I ignored my body's wishes and continued to eat fatty & processed foods, meat, and dairy, there is a good chance that I would have stressed my gallbladder and caused one of the stones to block the duct - resulting in emergency surgery.

Finally, I simply want to share my gratitude. I am so grateful for the people in my life that have stood by me and supported me through all of this-- years of ER visits, daily stomach pain, going out to eat at "special" restaurants because of my dietary needs... Thank you. This is a healing time for you all as well.

And, thank you to my gallbladder. It has worked so hard all these years - and without proper recognition. I know that I am a healthier person today than I would have been if I had not had this pain.

Ok, I'll stop with the sappy stuff now. Go eat your soft serve. :)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Tofu Rolls

Gee, it's been a long time, huh? Well, let's catch up. What's new with you? How was your week? What did you do on July 4th? And, most importantly, what have you been eating?

It's been an interesting week over here. I dyed my hair three times. I went on a long bike ride. I've been working on a scrapbook. And I made some sushi. Since the sushi is probably the most interesting part, let's talk about that.

I absolutely love vegan sushi. Actually, I've never had any other kind of sushi... what's raw fish like? The problem with being a vegetarian/vegan sushi lover is that sushi is really all about the fish. Sure, there are definitely some sushi places that have great non-fish options (if you live in Seatte, check out Kitaro in Wallingford). But, for most sushi places, vegetarian sushi is limited to avocado rolls.

This is why I embarked on a qwest to make my own sushi. I decided to start by making my favorite tofu rolls: tofu, avocado, and cucumber. Classic. I was feeling particularly lazy and added in plain, raw tofu. You can always bake yours and/or marinate it beforehand.

Making sushi is definitely an art, but it's not as challenging as I expected it to be. And, the good news for you is that if I can do it, you certainly can too. So, here's what you'll need to get started:
  • a bamboo mat
  • 1 cup sushi rice (I used Nishiki brand)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 Tbs seasoned rice vinegar
  • nori strips
  • 1 block of tofu
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 cucumber
It doesn't take too much rice and fillings to make these sushi rolls so the ingredients above will make several batches.

Start by washing your rice. Add 1 cup of the rice to a pot and wash thoroughly. The water will initially be a milky white color, but keep rinsing until the water runs clear. Then add 2 cups of water to the pot and bring to a boil. Next, lower the heat and let it simmer until the rice is done. (You can also use a rice cooker.)

When rice is done, put it in a separate bowl and mix with 1 tablespoon of seasoned rice vinegar. Place a damp towel over the bowl to keep it moist.

Prepare the fillings. Start by cutting off the ends of the cucumer and then slicing it into quarters. Remove the seeds and then slice each quarter into thin strips. Cut open the avocado and remove the pit. Peel off the skin and slice the avocado into thin strips. Slice your tofu block into thin strips as well.

Grab your bamboo mat and lay your nori sheet on top of it. Cover the nori with a thin layer of the rice. This should cover about 2/3 of the sheet.

The next step is to flip the nori sheet over. A handy trick is to put a layer of plastic wrap between the nori sheet and the bamboo mat so that the rice does not stick to the bamboo mat. I forgot to do this step, but it makes a difference!

You will then add your fillings. Make sure that you are putting these on the end of the nori that does not have rice on the other side. It doesn't take too much to fill these rolls up, so a few strips of avocado, tofu, and cucmber should be enough.

Now you're ready to roll! Take your mat and begin to roll the nori starting at the end where your fillings are.

Continue to roll.

Your finished product will look something like this. If you used a plastic sheet, your roll will be wrapped in plastic and your mat will not be covered in rice!

Slice your sushi into individual rolls. If you used a plastic sheet, make sure to remove this prior to slicing.

Put on a plate and serve!