Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Round-Up

Well, here we are at Halloween. I don't know about you, but with the hectic Vegan Mofo schedule this month and lots of traveling, I'm super excited for October to be coming to a close. I'm definitely ready to embrace a new month filled with yellow leaves, windy mornings, and lots of holiday food.

But, it wouldn't be Halloween without first indulging in some tasty treats!  I've rounded up five of my favorite treats and snacks and I promise that there is something for everyone.  Enjoy!

Missing the candy corn and caramel apples of your youth?  Then this sweet and sticky Caramel Corn with Sea Salt is for you.  You can eat it by the handful (or bowlful!) without waking up to a sugar hangover the next day. 

Or perhaps you're looking for a less-conventional Halloween treat?  Found it!  Treat yourself and your guests to this yummy Apple Crisp.  Not too sweet, but not too tart... this one is sure to please everyone while making your house smell like fall.

Hey, chocolate fan.  Yeah, that's right.  I'm looking at you.  How about some Samoa Cookies to satisfy that sweet tooth?  Sweet, luscious coconut topped off with melted chocolate?  See, I got your back.

Alright savory lovers.  I know who you are.  You're the kind of person that picks potato chips over brownies.  I don't quite understand you, but I adore you anyway.  We've got some Chickpea Nibbles and Crispy Baked Kale Chips in store for you. Crunchy, salty, and flavorful.  Happy Halloween.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Baking Soda & Vinegar Hair Care

Welcome to the final Beaty Food Friday, a special feature I am doing every Friday for the month of October that shows beauty products that can be made from everyday items in your kitchen.

I am super excited to share my final Beauty Food Friday recipe with you beause it's something new that I've been trying and I am loving it. That's right... we're talking about baking soda and vinegar for hair care!

Now, before you judge and think I've gone off to Hippieville (which, maybe I have... and maybe I like it there...), hear me out for a minute. I've done my research and I know that there are mixed reviews about the baking soda and vinegar method.  The top complaints I've heard are:
  1. Ease of use
  2. The strong smell from the vinegar
  3. Dry, brittle hair
What if I told you that I have solved these issues?  And that this method is super cheap and will save you  money on shampoo?  And, that using natural ingredients on your head keeps hundreds of toxic chemicals off your body and away from your brain?  Trust me, it's time you get on board.

It might be hard to adjust to the lack of shampoo foaming action at first, but using the right quanties of ingredients will make this a lot easier.  Start by mixing 1 part baking soda with 3 parts water.  I have chin-length hair, so 1 Tablespoon of baking soda mixed with 3 Tablespoons of water was the perfect amount for me.  You can adjust this depending on your hair length.

To make application easier, I recommend mixing individual batches in travel-sized squeeze bottles (pictured above).  Apply to dry hair by squeezing a little at the roots and working to the ends.  Repeat this process all over your head.  Let it sit for 1 - 3 minutes then rinse with water. 

Once you get the hang of this and are able to judge the right amount for your hair, you can make a big batch of the mixture in a large squeeze bottle and keep it in your shower.  The baking soda and water will separate so make sure to shake the bottle prior to each application.  Super easy!

After washing and rinsing with the baking soda mixture, you'll want to apply a vinegar rinse.  Mix 1 part vinegar (both plain white vinegar and apple cider vinegar work well) with 4 parts water.  For my hair, I used 1 Tablespoon plain white vinegar and 4 Tablespoons of water.  I also mixed this in travel-sized squeeze bottles.  Tilt your head back (to avoid getting this mixture in your eyes) and distribute through your hair.  Rinse after a few seconds. 

The vinegar rinse does have a strong smell, so I like to mix 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 1 pinch of cinnamon, and 1 pinch of nutmeg with it.  This not only masks the vinegar scent, but it's a nice scent for fall.  I've also been enjoying different combinations of essential oils and if you are looking for a stronger scent I would recommend experiementing with different oils. My favorite combinations are:
  • Rose Mint (1 drop rose essential oil and 2 drops mint essential oil)
  • Vanilla Lavender (2 drops of lavender essential oil and 2 drops of vanilla essential oil)
  • Orange Rosemary (1 drop orange essential oil and 2 drops rosemary essential oil)
These amounts are for a single rinse so if you are making a larger batch, experiment and find the right amount of oils for you.

If you find that your hair is becoming dry, simply use some coconut oil!  You can apply it to your hair and let it sit for a few minutes before washing with the baking soda mixture or use it as an intense overnight hair mask.  

I found baking soda in the bulk section of my natural grocery store for $.92/pound.  A 16 ounce plastic squeeze bottle cost $2 and my travel-sized bottles cost $1 each.  This is a very accessible and affordable way to get rid of unnecessary chemicals in your life, green your beauty routine, and stay healthy! Now that I've solved all your complaints, you have no reason to not try this out at home! 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Coconut Lentil Curry

I feel like I'm finally getting the hang of fall.  All of my cozy sweaters and fuzzy socks have been pulled out from storage.  I'm lighting more candles, going to bed earlier, and using my oven every day.  I'm also creating more breathing room in my life and attempting to carve out some quiet time just for me. 

These past couple of months I've found myself moving in a million different directions with various projects and commitments in my life.  It's definitely time for me to slow down, reflect, and reevaluate my priorities.  My hope is to use these next two months to refocus my energy so I can start the New Year refreshed and ready to bring new opportunities into my life.  Are you with me?

There's nothing better to renew your energy or celebrate the season than lentil curry with coconut milk. This can be served over rice or on its own. I really like to serve it with warm bread for dipping. This recipe involves very little prep time, so it's perfect for a quick weeknight meal when all you want to do is cozy up in your fall sweater, light some candles, and enjoy a quiet dinner with yourself.

Coconut Lentil Curry
Serves 4
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoon curry powder
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
2 carrots, diced
2.5 cups vegetable broth
1/2 can of coconut milk (about 1 cup)
1 cup green lentils
dash of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Add the olive oil to a pot over medium heat.  Add the yellow onion and sauté for five minutes, until translucent. Add the cumin, curry powder, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, garlic, ginger, and carrots and sauté for an additional 2 minutes.  Add the vegetable broth, coconut milk, lentils, and cayenne pepper and bring to a boil.  Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. (If too much of the liquid has evaporated, you can add more vegetable broth or water). Remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaves.  Add salt and pepper to taste and serve hot.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Albuquerque: Part 2

(Read Albuquerque: Part 1 here!)

I'm sure you are wondering about vegan and vegetarian options in Albuquerque so let's get to it! Since I was traveling for business, food options were definitely more limited than if I was traveling for pleasure. We were on a tight conference schedule so everything had to be within walking distance of our hotel. Here are my key survival tips:

1. Know before you go
Since I knew we would be on foot, I made sure to research places closeby our hotel before we went. This helped me to know what to expect and I was ready with a few options in mind.

Bring your own... breakfast! Finding a healthy, vegan breakfast is one of the hardest challenges when I travel. And sure enough, the continental breakfast at the hotel was filled with pastries and coffee. My survival strategy is to pack oats, chia seeds, and a carton of almond milk. It's super easy to make overnight oats the night before and wake up to a ready-made breakfast!  I also like to pack a few goodies like nuts, dried fruit, and cinnamon so that I don't feel bored with the oats by the end of the week.

And, I would also recommend packing a few snack bars (Larabars are my personal fave) or nuts so that you have a few options if you get hungry in-between meal times. If you do plan to prepare breakfast or another meal in your hotel room, come prepared with a bowl, silverware, and a small sponge and dish soap.

3. Give local places a try
We ate at a few nearby restaurants and it was pretty easy to find things to eat, but I did have to (politely!) specify my dietary restrictions. Servers were very nice about modifying items without cheese and answering questions about ingredients. I would definitely recommend clarifying if beans were made with meat stock (because a lot of them were!) and if in doubt, stick to the veggie fajitas. Oh, and stay away from the fried chip basket. Just sayin.

4. Find a grocery store
One of my favorite traveling tricks is to find a nearby grocery store and make food in my hotel room. I was very lucky that La Montanita Co-Op was about a mile from the hotel because they had a great selection of fresh produce, a smoothie and juice bar, and a deli full of vegan options! I had the quinoa salad from their deli a few times and also opted to make a kale salad in the hotel room. As I mentioned above, if you are planning to make food in your room, just be sure to pack any utensils or kitchen items that you might need.

5. Make an ice bath
If your hotel room does not have a fridge, don't let that stop you from saving leftovers or making food in your room. I simply make an ice bath in the sink and change out the ice when it gets low. This allows me to store leftovers or produce items that I wouldn't want sitting out otherwise. As long as you are practicing safe food handling and the food is submerged in the ice it will be safe to eat. (However, if you don't replace the ice in time and/or the food is questionable to eat, then definitely throw it out.)

Happy travels!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Albuquerque: Part 1

Last week I had the amazing opportunity to attend the conference for the Community Food Project grantees in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  All of the Community Food Projects are designed to increase food security in our communities through whole-system change.  It was great to learn about the different projects happening across the country that are working towards access to fresh, healthy produce within food deserts, self-sufficiency for low-income families, education about local produce, and a closer connection to where our food comes from.  This grant is what helps my organization to feed low-income children from a local, whole-foods menu, educate families about local produce and cooking from scratch at home, and create sustainable markets for local farms.  Pretty cool huh?

Our last day of the conference we went on a farm tour around Albuquerque.  All of the farms that we saw work to build community, create hands-on learning, and reconnect people to their food.  I really enjoyed seeing La Plazita Gardens, a 12-acre community farm in Albuquerque's South Valley.  Not only do they use the garden as a way to educate youth about farming and selling produce, but it connects youth back to their culture and indigenous roots and creates healing for the entire community. 

We also got to see the kitchen at the South Valley Economic Development Center.  Their kitchen is used by a variety of local growers and businesses who are able to use the kitchen on an hourly basis, rather than having to build their own commercial space.  I fell in love with the mural outside their center that was created by local youth.  The "three sisters" (pictured above) hold agricultural significance because corn, beans, and squash help each other to grow when planted closeby one another.

Want to find out about what I ate during the trip?  Stay tuned for Part 2!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Coconut Squash Soup

What do you do as soon as you get home from a five-day business trip in New Mexico? You make butternut squash soup.  Why? Because all you have at home when you arrive is a butternut squash and a can of coconut milk. And because the thought of another meal including rice and beans makes you shudder.  

So, you chop up some squash, pop it in the oven, pet your cat, and unpack.  Then you throw the squash in a pot and purée. Before you can even adjust back to Pacific time, you will find your dinner ready for you, along with grey skies and a rainy afternoon.  It's good to be home.

Coconut Squash Soup
Serves 4 - 6

1 medium butternut squash, skin removed and chopped into 1-inch squares
3 Tablespoons coconut oil, divided
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped 
1 1/2 cups cooked garbanzo beans (optional)
5 cups vegetable broth (or more as needed)
1/2 can of coconut milk (about 1 cup)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Rub squash with about 2 tablespoons of coconut oil.  Roast for about 35 minutes, until tender (but not mushy). Check on the squash every ten minutes and flip the pieces so that the sides are evenly roasted.  Remove from oven and set aside. 

Add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil to a medium pot over medium heat.  Sauté the onion for 5 minutes until translucent.  Add the garlic and sauté for an additional minute.  Add the roasted squash, garbanzo beans vegetable broth, and coconut milk.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  

Next, blend the soup by using an immersion blender or transfering it to a regular blender. (If using a regular blender, be very careful as the steam can sometimes cause the lid to blow off.  I recommend allowing the soup to cool for a few minutes, then blending small batches on medium speed while holding the lid down with a large pot holder or towel in my hand).  Serve hot, with salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with a spoonful of coconut milk.  

Friday, October 21, 2011

Carrot Face Mask

Welcome to the third Beaty Food Friday, a special feature I am doing every Friday for the month of October that shows beauty products that can be made from everyday items in your kitchen. 

When I was a teenager I was obsessed with finding kitchen ingredients and making them into homemade face masks.  You can bet that I came up with a mix of yummy and weird combinations, including: strawberries and honey, avocado and cucumber, and even lemon and raw egg whites.  Let me tell you, the last one did not smell pretty.

With the seasons changing, my skin's been feeling a little drier than normal and it seemed like the perfect time to try my hand at mask-making yet again.  This time I wanted to experiment with carrots because they contain a variety of vitamins and are said to be great for toning the skin.

This mask is perfect for any skin type because it can easily be adapted for dry or oily skin.  It's also a great way to use up an overripe banana!  If you have drier skin, the banana, agave, and olive oil are perfect for moisturizing.  And if you have oily skin, the lemon juice acts as a natural astringent and toner.  I really like combining these ingredients for a mask that tones as well as moisturizes, but feel free to experiment with different combinations.

2 medium carrots
1/2 medium banana
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon agave syrup
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Peel and dice the carrots.  Steam for 15 minutes, or until very soft.  Add the carrots, banana, lemon juice, and agave to a food processor and process.  While the blade is running, add the olive oil.  Process until smooth.

Apply the mask to your skin (avoid the eyes and lips) for ten to fifteen minutes.  Rinse with cool water.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Homemade Nut Milk

Homemade nut milk is all the rage right now.  Not only is it tastier and fresher than storebought nut milk, but it's healthier (less preservatives and sweeteners!) and more economical if you get your nuts from the bulk aisle.  I really love that you get to control the texture and flavor of the milk and create a version that's uniquely all your own!

Here's what you need to know about making your own raw nut milk.  You need 1 part nuts to 4 parts water.  (Since conventional almonds tend to have a lot of pesticides, if making almond milk I would highly recommend choosing organic if possible.)  To begin, you will need:
  • 1 cup nuts
  • 4 cups water
  • a blender
  • a cheesecloth or nut milk bag for straining (if you desire a smoother milk)
  • extra goodies for adding flavor or sweetness, if desired
    That's it!  It's so simple.  Now, let's get started.

    1. Begin by soaking your nuts in some water for about 8 - 12 hours.  
    2. Drain water and rinse the nuts.  
    3. Add nuts and 4 cups of water to blender.  Blend for about a minute.  
    4. If you want a smoother milk, strain the milk using a cheesecloth or nut milk bag.  Put the cheesecloth or nut milk bag inside a clean jar (hold it in place with a rubber band around the rim if needed) and pour the blender of milk into the cloth to strain.
    5. Keep the milk in a jar in your fridge and it will last for up to 4 days.
    If you'd like to add some sweetness or other flavor, experiment with adding dates, vanilla, cinnamon, agave, or nutmeg.  To use dates, once you have strained the milk, put it back in the blender and blend until smooth and creamy.  Enjoy!

    Also, if you strained your milk, save your nut pulp and use it in oatmeal, smoothies, baked goods, or raw dips!

    Wednesday, October 19, 2011

    San Francisco: Part 2

    (Check out Part 1 here.)  Our second day in San Francisco started with a 3-mile run for a me and some extra sleep for Ashley.  My plan was to enjoy a post-run juice at a nearby juice bar downtown, but we soon discovered that they were closed on weekends.  Lesson learned: do your research before you go!  It wasn't a huge disappointment though because it meant that I got to check out Cafe Gratitude sooner than expected.

    Over the years I've heard many great things about Cafe Gratitude and I'm happy to report that this place definitely lives up to the hype.  Cafe Gratitude serves 100% organic, vegan cuisine with a mix of raw and cooked items.  They even have their own farm in Vacaville, California (Be Love Farm) that supplies some of their produce.  We went to their location in the Mission District and I instantly fell in love with their friendly, welcoming vibe. 

    I started with their "I Am Enlivened" E3Live shot made from fresh algae in Klamath Lake, Oregon.  Not only is it high in protein and trace minerals, but I definitely felt an increase in my energy through the afternoon.  Ashley ordered the "I Am Trusting" which consisted of a handmade corn tamale with hierloom masa and butternut squash served with salsa verde, black beans, and spicy Mexican coleslaw.  I ordered their "I Am Whole" bowl which was filled with quinoa, sea vegetables, kale, house-made kimchi, and teriyaki almonds with tahini garlic sauce. It was the perfect healthy, satisfying cuisine for lunch and we even had leftovers to eat for dinner.

    After lunch we decided to explore Chinatown and make our way to Fisherman's Wharf.  It was fun to explore the unique shops, but our feet were pretty tired from walking around the city so we stopped in Little Italy for some sorbet and a quick break.  After making it to the waterfront, it was time to head back to our hotel so we got a great view of the city while riding the streetcar.  Day Two ended with a big salad from Whole Foods and watching Borne Identity in the hotel.  Yes!
    Our final day in San Francisco started with another morning run for me.  We had just enough time before getting to the airport to explore the city one last time, but a tough choice had to be made:  would we see the Golden Gate Bridge or get breakfast?

    Are you kidding me?  Don't ever make me choose between seeing a bridge or getting breakfast because I will always choose the food.  And when asked where we should go for breakfast, you can bet that my answer was Herbivore, yet again.  This time we tried their other location on Divisadero and I was equally impressed with the food and atmosphere.

    Ashley played it safe and had the french toast again with their fruit smoothie.  I opted for their "sausage" biscuit with house potatoes, mushroom gravy, and an avocado-tomato salad along with a yerba mate latte.  I loved that the "sausage" biscuit and gravy was filling, but not greasy or too heavy for breakfast.  I also loved that it came with a giant green salad with half an avocado!  Herbivore was the perfect way to end our trip and fill our stomachs before our flight home!

    Tuesday, October 18, 2011

    (Gluten-Free) Quinoa Pecan Stuffing

    Shhh... can you keep a secret?

    This recipe is what made me fall head-over-heels in love with mushrooms.  Yes, you heard that right.  I've been putting them in soups, stir fries, and salads almost every day this week. I am now a big fungi fan. 

    But, that's not the secret.

    See, my partner, Ashley, hates mushrooms.  She hates mushrooms more than kale (and that's saying a lot), but she loved this stuffing. Of course, I didn't exactly advertise that there were mushrooms in it.  Can you keep this a secret? 

    As she ate it I sat nervously waiting for her to discover a small mushroom that hadn't been diced fine enough, but she made it through the entire plate without saying a word.  That's a huge success. 

    Now that I've been enjoying mushrooms more I'm starting to develop a taste for them.  They're not so bad after all.  Any mushroom-haters out there waiting to be converted?  This recipe just might sway you.

    I know that we still have some time before the holidays hit, but I can tell you that this stuffing will definitely be one of the dishes served this year.  Whether you are gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, or just love delicious food, this should make it on your list for the holidays too.  I really liked serving it in a roasted acorn squash because it had a beautiful presentation and after the stuffing was scooped out, the squash was sliced up as a side dish.  However, you can just as easily skip the squash and serve the stuffing on its own.  Either way, this is a fabulous dish that everyone (even mushroom haters) will enjoy.  

    (Gluten-Free) Quinoa Pecan Stuffing
    Slightly adapted from Michelle Babb
    Serves 6

    1 cup pecans
    1 teaspoon dried sage
    1 teaspoon dried thyme
    1 acorn squash 
    1 cup quinoa
    2 cups vegetable broth plus 1/4 cup
    2 Tablespoons coconut oil
    1 small yellow onion, chopped
    1 1/2 cups chopped mushrooms (I used shiitake)
    1 small apple, cored, peeled and chopped into small chunks

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread pecans on the baking sheet and place in the oven until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes.  (I recommend watching the pecans because they can easily start to burn). Remove them from the oven and turn the heat to 375.  

    While the oven heats, add the pecans to a food processor.  Coarsely chop while adding the sage and thyme.  Set aside.  

    Cut squash in half, rub with a little oil, and place on sheet pan cut side down in the 375-degree oven. Roast for 30 minutes, or until insides are tender.  

    Rinse quinoa and place in a large saucepan.  Add 2 cups of the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.  Remove lid and fluff with a fork.

    Heat coconut oil in a large pan.  Add onions and cook until translucent.  Add mushrooms and continue to sauté until mushrooms are tender.  Add apple chunks and remaining 1/4 cup vegetable broth.  Cover and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, until apple is tender.  Add the cooked quinoa and the pecan/herb mixture to the pan and stir until all the ingredients are well combined.  

    Scoop a little squash out of the acorn halves.  Fill with the quinoa stuffing and serve.  (Once the stuffing is served, the squash can be sliced and served as well.)

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    Farmers Market

    This weekend I spent the day browsing through the Farmers Market in the University District of Seattle. With my recent traveling I haven't been doing much shopping at the market and I've been missing it these past couple of weeks.  Since I have another trip coming up soon I had to promise myself that I wouldn't buy a bunch of vegetables that would end up going to waste in the fridge.

    Let me tell you, it was hard to keep that promise.  I mean, is there anything more beautiful than fresh produce from the market?  And the peppers, ohh the peppers...

    Friday, October 14, 2011

    Coconut Oil For Your Body

    Welcome to the second Beaty Food Friday, a special feature I am doing every Friday for the month of October that shows beauty products that can be made from everyday items in your kitchen. 

    Today's beauty focus is coconut oil.  Coconut oil comes from the meat of matured coconuts and is very heat-stable so it is perfect for high-heat cooking. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature (at least here in Seattle), but in the warmer months my jar of solid mass turns to a clear liquid.  It doesn't take much heat to change it to a liquid state so simply rubbing a little between your hands will do it. Organic, virgin coconut oil can be purchased at your local health food store or online.  

    Not only does coconut oil smell delicious, but it's completely natural so you can feel good about putting it on your skin!  Our skin is the largest organ in our body so everything that we put on it ends up in our system. Choosing organic body products without fragrances and parabens makes a huge difference.  

    I definitely recommend having separate containers of beauty oil and cooking oil.  I simply bought one jar of oil and then transferred half to a glass container that I keep in my bathroom. A little goes a long way and coconut oil can last for almost two years without refrigeration so you definitely get your money's worth.  

    I've been using coconut oil for years as a moisturizer - even before I started cooking with it!  Isn't that crazy?  There are a ton of different uses for coconut oil as a beauty product, including:

    • face and body moisturizer
    • hair conditioner
    • deodorant
    • shaving cream
    • lip balm
    • cuticle oil
    • bath oil
    • eye-makeup remover

    How do you use it in your home or beauty routine? 

    Thursday, October 13, 2011

    Fresh Corn & Tomato Quinoa Salad

    With all of my recent traveling and writing I haven't been spending much time in the kitchen.  In fact, tonight was the first time I've actually made anything substantial in the past week and a half.  I forget how much cooking means to me until I find myself standing over the stove, listening to a podcast, and feeling at peace.  I have more traveling coming up soon so I'm grateful to just be at home in this moment, eating quinoa, and feeling grounded.

    Tomato and corn season are ending here.  Our warm weather started much later than usual this year so we've had an extended growing season and it's been wonderful to still have fresh tomatoes these last couple of weeks.  This salad comes together quickly and is perfect for weeknight cooking.  I was being lazy and kept the corn raw (which I actually prefer), but you can boil it for a minute if you'd rather. Enjoy this on a cool fall evening or anytime you need a moment to feel grounded. 

    Fresh Corn and Tomato Quinoa Salad
    From Vegetarian Times (July/August 2010)
    Serves 8

    1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
    1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    1 1/2 cups fresh (or frozen) corn kernels (from 2 ears)
    1 1/2 cups halved cherry or grape tomatoes
    1 cup finely chopped red cabbage
    1 cup diced cucumber

    1/2 cup olive oil
    1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
    3 Tablespoons maple syrup
    1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
    1 teaspoon sea salt

    To make the salad: bring quinoa, salt, and 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a saucepan.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 20 minutes, or until water is absorbed.  Set aside, covered, for 10 minutes.

    To make the dressing: mix all ingredients in a blender until smooth.  

    Mix corn, tomatoes, cabbage, and cucumber with quinoa in a bowl.  Mix with dressing and serve.  

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    San Francisco: Part 1

    Here's what you need to know about traveling with me:  I have eating pants.

    Yes, that's right.  You heard me: eating pants.  And I'm not afraid to use 'em.

    My partner and I traveled to Napa Valley and San Francisco last week for a wedding and it was the perfect excuse to explore some new vegan and veggie-friendly places.  Since we were on a tight timeline, I ate my way through most of the city for three days straight.  So, get your eatin' pants on, get ready to salivate, and let's check out some of the yummiest places in the Bay Area.

    Our first day began with a breakfast at Herbivore in the Mission District.  They have two locations in San Francisco and also one in Berkeley.  Herbivore has a great breakfast and brunch menu with a nice variety of light and hearty options.  They also have fresh vegetable juices and were kind enough to make me a custom juice!  I opted for the corn cakes with black beans, salsa, guacamole, and vegan sour cream.  Ashley had the french toast with sour dough bread and real maple syrup along with a strawberry milkshake (with coconut ice cream).

    I arrived tired and hungry from traveling, but this place quickly turned my mood around.  Not only was the service fabulous, but the food was excellent.  I tend to be weary of restaurant breakfasts because I typically find them greasy or too heavy, but not at Herbivore!  Both of our dishes were filling and satisfying while still tasting fresh and healthy.  This is definitely my kind of breakfast!

    After breakfast we decided to do some exploring around the city and learned that the Bart (the Bay Area Rapid Transit) is the fastest and easiest way to get around.  Of course, that's assuming that your partner didn't lose her ticket, use yours to exit the gate, and then leave you stuck behind.  It's also assuming that she did not have to go buy another ticket to bring back to you, but it still wouldn't work so then you had to beg a security guard to let you out.  Live and learn folks.

    We spent most of the afternoon walking around downtown while I patiently waited for my stomach to digest so we could hit the next spot on my list: Source.  Source is a "multi-dimensional dining experience" which focuses on creating a unique atmosphere through taste, sight, and sound.  Given my recent journey to eat more mindfully, I was curious to check this place out.

    I loved their focus on fresh, seasonal, organic food, and the atmosphere was definitely relaxing and enjoyable. (Any restaurant that plays Brandi Carlile and KT Tunstall is alright by me!) Their menu and drink selection is amazing.  Most of the menu is vegan, but there are vegetarian options as well. 

    I started with their raw blueberry yerba mate lemonade which was the perfect balance of yerba mate tea with a sweet, fruity twist.  It took me about fifteen minutes to decide what to eat, but I finally settled on the Spicy Pepper Onion Burger.  Their burger patties are their own unique blend of beets, celery, carrots, lentils, mushrooms, brown rice, fresh herbs, soy protein, onions, and garlic.  You even get your choice of salt and sauce with your fries. Yum! 

    Since no vacation would be complete without dessert, a few hours later I went looking for the perfect sweet treat.  My iPhone directed me to a place right across from our hotel called Loving Hut in the Westfield shopping center.  Loving Hut is a vegan chain that has locations all around the country.  (Who knew a vegan chain even existed?)  They had a mix of tofu dishes, curries, and veggie sides, but I was too stuffed to try much besides dessert.  I settled on the pumpkin cheesecake and was not disappointed.  It was the perfect way to end our first day in the city!

    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

    Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

    Do you ever blare Neil Diamond in your kitchen?  I mean... really blare it?

    While dancing?

    And tripping over you cat?

    And spilling pumpkin smoothie on yourself?

    No?  Really?  Come on, how else does a twenty-something spend her Monday nights?

    If you made my Pumpkin Spice Body Scrub over the weekend I have a feeling that you might be needing more pumpkin in your life.  And, if you licked a good deal of the body scrub off your face (*guilty*), you also just might be craving something a bit more substantial.  I've been enjoying this smoothie for breakfast lately and love the addition of oats, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds for a little extra fiber and protein.  It's a great grab-and-go breakfast or the perfect afternoon treat to power your kitchen dance party.  

    Pumpkin Spice Smoothie
    Makes 2 servings

    1 cup pumpkin puree
    1.5 cups almond milk
    2 bananas
    1 cup ice cubes
    1 Tablespoon ground flaxseeds and/or hemp seeds (optional)
    1/4 cup regular rolled oats (optional)
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

    Add ingredients to blender and blend until smooth.  Drink up!

    Monday, October 10, 2011

    The Mindful Eating Project

    As more people try to move away from processed foods and focus on eating whole grains and vegetables, there is increased awareness about the importance of what we eat. Where does our food come from? Was it locally or organically grown? Who grew it? There are so many questions about what we are eating nowadays, but very few questions about how we are eating it.

    A friend and I were recently chatting about eating healthfully and the importance of paying attention to what we eat. She gave me a great idea to try mindful eating for one month. I thought it would be a challenge to do anything mindfully for a full thirty days, but I knew this was a worthy experience to embark on.

    I began my project by defining what mindful eating meant. For my purposes, I defined mindful eating as being present in my body while being aware of the experience of eating or drinking. I initially planned to keep a food journal of my experience, but since that didn’t last past the first two days I quickly ditched the journal and decided to focus on the lessons learned instead.

    At the end of thirty days it was apparent to me that mindful eating made me feel more full, nourished, and present in my body and in my life. However, it wasn’t easy. So much of our culture is built around the idea of meals on-the-go and multitasking during lunch. It was a daily struggle to find time to sit and be present with my food, and honestly, there were quite a few days where it didn’t happen at all. Here are my takeaways:

    Do one thing at a time.

    Mindful eating cannot occur while driving, typing, or watching television. These activities are mutually exclusive. Our bodies and minds were not meant to do ten things at once and slowing down and focusing on one thing not only benefits your digestive track, but everything else in your life as well.

    Use internal cues, not external ones, to guide your eating.

    Are you really hungry? Or are you just ________? Fill in the blank: stressed, tired, anxious, bored, eating because someone else is, you name it. So much of our experience of eating is determined by the environment around us.
    Have you ever noticed that even if you don’t like a particular food, if it is placed in front of you for long enough you will start snacking on it? A lot of our eating happens mindlessly while we are talking or distracted by other things. Pay close attention to your body and let it tell you when it’s ready to eat.

    Notice what happens to your body around eating.

    Does your stomach hurt because you ate too fast? Does your body feel bloated from eating too much? Do you have heartburn from eating too soon before bed? A lot of common digestive problems are caused by the way that we are interacting with our food. Tune into your body and become present.

    Slow down.

    Take the time to look at your food, smell it, pick it up, and put it back down. Taste it by moving it around your mouth and notice the different flavors that different areas of your tongue pick up. Take deep breaths, fully swallow in between bites, and put your fork down. What are you noticing in your body?

    I have been known to be a bit of a bulldozer at meals and plow through my food. One of my biggest lessons happened when I began to notice how quickly I ate my food in relation to those around me. I would often be done with a main course while others were still picking at appetizers! At one point I even kept a timer next to me at meals to help remind me to slow down. If you find yourself struggling with speed, find an external cue like a timer to help you take your time.

    Take smaller bites.

    At the beginning of this project, not only was I a quick eater, but I was taking large bites of my food. I often find myself doing this when I am enjoying something, but it also means that I am rushing through the meal. Smaller bites will not only help you to be present and slow down, but if you are really enjoying your food it means you get to enjoy the yummy item for longer!

    Try different utensils.

    Do you eat more mindfully with chopsticks versus a fork? What about using your hands? I love using chopsticks and they make it much easier for me to pay attention to how I am eating. Experiment and see how different utensils affect your meal.

    Start Small.

    If you are stuck on where or how to start eating more mindfully then focus on one meal. Even on days where my schedule is completely packed, I like to start each morning with a mindful breakfast. This helps me to feel grounded, at peace, and ready to take on the day.

    Find foods that nourish you.

    Are you eating healthful, delicious foods that nourish your body? Or do you find yourself grabbing whatever is convenient? The greatest lesson I learned this month is the importance of choosing foods that not only taste great, but that made me feel healthy and happy. Mindful eating makes it much easier to pick foods that make me feel energetic rather than ready for a nap. Notice how different foods make you feel and you’ll find yourself not only eating more mindfully, but hopefully feeling healthier and happier as a result.

    Friday, October 7, 2011

    Pumpkin Spice Body Scrub

    Welcome to the first Beaty Food Friday, a special feature I am doing every Friday for the month of October that shows beauty products that can be made from everyday items in your kitchen.  

    If you are anything like me, I'm sure that you've been looking forward to pumpkin season and not only want to eat it, but are dying to rub it all over your face and body.  Lucky for you this body scrub is easy to make and will fulfill your lifelong ambition to cover yourself in pumpkin while exfoliating dry skin.

    This scrub was super gentle on my sensitive skin and I even used it on my face (avoiding the eye area!) without causing any irritation.  This recipe lasted me about 2 - 3 showers and left my skin feeling super soft and even a bit moisturized.  This scrub also smelled amazing, but didn't leave an overpowering scent on my skin like some other body products can.  I love that it's all natural and incredibly delicious...  so delicious, in fact, that you might have to resist licking your face in the shower.

    Pumpkin Spice Body Scrub

    1 cup sugar
    1 teaspoon nutmeg
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/4 cup pumpkin

    Mix sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon together.  Mix with pumpkin.  Put on skin, scrub in circular motion, and rinse.  All smooth and clean!

    Store any excess in the refrigerator until ready to use.

    Thursday, October 6, 2011

    Cripsy Baked Kale Chips

    I think that every person is put on this Earth with a purpose.  Some people are meant to be teachers, doctors and firefighters.  Others are meant to be writers, musicians, and artists.  Then there are parents, social workers, activists, and a whole bunch of awesome, amazing folks that make this world go round. 

    And me?  Well, I was put on this Earth to push kale and beets on people.  Just let me live my purpose. 

    When I began this blog in February of 2010, one of my first recipes was for kale chips. However, now a year and a half later (with a much better camera) I think it's time I introduce these again. I promise that your life will be changed forever. 

    See, you take fresh kale, tear it into pieces, and lay it flat on a sheet pan.  You coat it in oil and salt.  Sounds better already, doesn't it?

    Then you bake it in the oven at 350°F and it comes back out as a crispy, crunchy chip.  Pretty incredible, huh?

    As I mentioned in my recent post on green smoothies, one of the things that I love most about my job is that I get to work with young children and introduce them to seasonal fruits and vegetables. I've been working this fall to introduce children to a variety of greens and kale chips are the perfect way to get kids hooked.  If you have children, let them assist in the kitchen by destemming and tearing leaves, then laying them flat on the pan. 

    I love to make a big batch of these when I'm craving something crunchy and salty. After they've been baked, you can even sprinkle them with different herbs or spices for different flavors. I really like adding a little pepper, paprika, or nutritional yeast.  What a tasty way to celebrate the greens in fall!
    Crispy Baked Kale Chips
    Yields: 6 servings

    1 bunch kale
    Cooking spray
    1 teaspoon salt

    Preheat the oven to 350°F . Coat baking sheet with cooking spray.

    De-stem the kale leaves and tear them into smaller, 2-inch pieces. Lay them flat on baking sheet in a single layer and spray lightly with cooking oil. Sprinkle with salt.

    Bake for 10—15 minutes, turning at least once, until the edges are browned and crispy, but not burnt. Remove from oven and cool for one minute. Serve immediately.

    Wednesday, October 5, 2011

    Acorn Squash Apple Soup

    Do you ever have days where you feel your phone vibrating in your pocket... but it's totally not?  Days where you swear it's Friday, but it's actually Tuesday.  Or Wednesday.  I forget.  Days where your keys are definitely not where you left them, your schedule is jam-packed with a million little things, you have to make it to the airport by 5 pm in rush-hour traffic, and all you want to do is crawl. back. in. bed.

    Did you know that acorn squash apple soup fixes these things?

    Yep, it totally does.  This soup makes your phone behave, your brain get back on track, does your laundry, feeds your cat, and it even takes out the compost. 

    Okay, maybe not.  But it does ease a growling stomach. Some days that's enough for me to be thankful for.

    This soup makes me wish it was fall every day of the year.  I love eating this with crusty rosemary bread white watching the leaves scatter outside the window.  It's a little bowl of bliss in this sometimes crazy, chaotic life that I happen to love.

    Acorn Squash Apple Soup
    Serves 4 - 6

    1 acorn squash
    2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
    1 medium onion, diced
    1 large apple, diced
    2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger
    4 cloves garlic, chopped
    2 cups garbanzo beans
    1 teaspoon dried thyme
    1/2 teaspoon dried sage
    4 cups vegetable broth
    2 cups apple juice
    Freshly-ground salt and pepper to taste

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cut squash in half, rub with a little oil, and place on sheet pan cut side down.  Roast for 30 minutes, or until insides are tender.  

    Remove from oven and allow to cool.  Scoop out insides of squash and set aside. 

    Add oil to a pot over medium heat.  Sauté the onion and apple for about 5 minutes.  Add ginger and garlic and sauté for an additional minute.  Add garbanzo beans, squash, thyme, and sage.  Cover with vegetable broth and apple juice and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce heat, cover, and cook until vegetables are soft, about 15 - 20 minutes.

    Next, blend the soup by using an immersion blender or transfering it to a regular blender. (If using a regular blender, be very careful as the steam can sometimes cause the lid to blow off.  I recommend allowing the soup to cool for a few minutes, then blending small batches on medium speed while holding the lid down with a large pot holder or towel in my hand).  Serve hot, with salt and pepper to taste.