Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Breakfast Quinoa

What are you eating for breakfast nowadays? Oatmeal? Toast? A smoothie?  All of the above? 

Whatever your answer, I won't judge.  Well, unless you aren't eating breakfast 'cause then that would be a problem. 

Or, if you are eating breakfast, but breakfast to you means glazed donuts every day for the past week.  Ahem, yes Ashley, I am looking at you... No, you're right, I said I wouldn't judge.  I'll just look at you out of the corner of my eye until you pick up that bowl and fill it with quinoa.  Good.  Now we're talking.

Have you jumped on the quinoa bandwagon yet?  If not, then allow me to catch you up. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is the edible seed that comes from the Quinoa plant which originated in South America. Quinoa’s relatives include spinach, beets, and Swiss chard. Quinoa comes in several varieties (white, red, and black) and each has their own unique taste and texture.

Quinoa is one of the best sources of protein in the vegetable kingdom and is also rich in iron, potassium, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. Not only is quinoa high in protein, but the protein it supplies is complete protein, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids. This makes quinoa the perfect main dish for vegetarian meals.

Even though quinoa is not technically a grain it can be substituted for nearly any grain in cooking. It is also gluten-free so it is perfect for anyone with wheat or gluten sensitivities or allergies. Quinoa is fluffy, creamy, and nutty and can be served hot or cold. You can find quinoa in a variety of recipes here on my blog as well. 

Breakfast quinoa is special for a couple of reasons:

1. You eat it at breakfast.
2. It's a great way to start your day with a vegan source of protein (that doesn't include soy or gluten!).
3. You can top it with your favorite fruits, nuts, spices, and milk!

Now let's get to it! 

And, if you haven't already entered my Hurraw! Balm giveaway, please be sure to do before Saturday, December 3rd at 4 pm PDT.

Breakfast Quinoa
Serves 2

1 cup quinoa
2 cups of water
Any toppings of your choice

Bring quinoa and 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.  Spoon into bowls and top with your favorite toppings.  Serve warm or cold. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hurraw! Balm Giveaway

Because I love you.  Because your health is important.  Because it's the holidays.  And because the nice people at Hurraw! are absolutely awesome...

I'm proud to be giving away three sets of Hurraw! Balm to three lucky readers! 

I first tried Hurraw! Balm this summer when I received one in my Vida Vegan Con goodie bag and I've been using it daily ever since.  Here is what I love about their lip balms:
  • Hurraw! Balms are certified organic, raw, vegan (containing no animal products), cruelty-free, fair-trade, gluten-free, kosher, and contain no GMO's.  (Does that list amaze you the way it amazes me?)
  • They are handmade in small batches and are infused with real seeds, pods, fruit zests, barks, and roots for flavor and natural color. 
  • All of their ingredients are ones that I can pronounce and would use in my own kitchen, such as: coconut oil, almond oil, olive oil, peppermint leaf, cinnamon, cardamom, raw chocolate, and vanilla beans.
  • Hurraw's oval tube is much more comfortable for application than a typical round tube.
  • None of their balms contain petroleum, preservatives, or artifical flavors. 
If you were around last month for my Beauty Food Friday posts, you'll remember my mini lecture that switching to natural, organic beauty products is one of the best ways to decrease cheimcal-exposure.  Everything that you put on your skin gets absorbed into your bloodstream and most lip balms are made with petroleum jelly (a bi-product of oil drilling). 

Hurraw! Balms currently come in 18 yummy flavors (like chai spice, vanilla bean, and grapefruit) and they are shipped in super cute reusable tea bags.  If you order through their website and are sending these as gifts, they will even include a free gift message!  I seriously love this company.

Back to the giveaway!  Enter to win your own set of Hurraw! Balms by leaving a comment below before Saturday, December 3rd at 4 pm Pacific Time telling me one thing that you're going to do this week to improve your health.  Winners will be chosen at random and announced on Sunday.

**Please note that this giveaway is already closed.  Thank you to all that entered!  You can see the winners here. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Roasted Root Veggies with Shallots

Today I come to you with a simple recipe and a heart-felt thank you.  Thank you, dear readers, for being such a wonderful part of my life and bringing so much energy and purpose to what I love to do: talk about vegetables!  Thank you for all your comments, tweets, emails, and allowing me to relish you with stories about beets and farmers markets... as well as giving in when I (practically) force green smoothies down your throats.  Without you, I would just be a woman in her pajamas talking to her cats about her love for kale.  Nobody wants to be that person.

I've been working on a gratitude project for the last couple of weeks and documenting all of the things that I am most grateful for in my life.  You, of course, are at the top of my list, along with my family, my friends, and my health.  I am also incredibly grateful to be approaching the one-year mark at my job where I get to do amazing work like introduce kids to kale smoothies and teach people how to cook with quinoa for the first time. 

What are you most grateful for?  I hope that wherever you are you find yourself experiencing health, happiness, and a passion for everything that you do in this world.

This almost isn't a recipe as much as a suggestion... to roast some fall vegetables, treat yourself to good food, and make your health a priority.  You deserve it.

Roasted Root Veggies with Shallots
Serves 4

6 carrots, sliced in half, tops trimmed
6 golden beets, sliced in quarters, tops trimmed
any additional veggies of your choice
4 shallots, quartered
a few tablespoons of oil (any oil that can tolerate high heat will work: avocado, almond, canola, grapeseed, or safflower are all great.)
any fresh or dried herbs you desire (I used fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage)
freshly ground sea salt and pepper to taste

Lay vegetables on a sheet pan and toss with oil and herbs.  Roast at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the vegetables can be easily pierced with a fork. Add salt and pepper to taste, if desired.  Serve warm or cold.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Round Up

Food is clearly one of the best parts of the holidays and is essential to any festive feast!  Whether you are completely vegan, serving vegan guests, or just looking for some veggie-friendly items to add to your table this holiday season, this collection of recipes has something that everyone can enjoy.

Start the meal off right with a fresh salad.  In the mood for cranberries?  Try this colorful winter salad with fresh cranberries, pomegranate seeds, and clementines.  Craving pears instead?  Then this spinach and kale salad with pear vinaigrette is the one for you.  Too chilly for a salad?  Warm up with a bowl of acorn squash apple soup to get in the holiday mood!

Onto the stuffing! Vegan? Gluten-free? Soy-free?  No problem!  This quinoa pecan stuffing will be sure to please all of your guests and is a much heatlhier option compared to traditional bread stuffing.  Not a fan of stuffing?  Then it's all about the braised pears with quinoa and butternut squash.  Hearty, protein-rich quinoa topped off with pears and a sweet, gingery sauce.  I'm in! 

Don't forget to round out your table with some braised leeks, roasted cauliflower with rosemary and garlic, or sauteed fennel with roasted garlic and thyme. Eating your veggies won't be a chore when they taste this delicious!

But no holiday meal would be complete without some truffled mashed potatoes topped with a mushroom gravy.  And how about the main dish?  Lentil loaf, of course!  Who needs Tofurkey this year?!

Just remember to save some room for dessert.  Be bold this year by throwing out the traditional pumpkin pie and serving up healthy pumpkin spice smoothies instead!  Or, this warm apple crisp topped with your favorite ice cream (Coconut Bliss is always my pick).  Cheers!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Lentil Loaf

Let's talk about awkward moments for a minute, shall we? 

What do you do when you find yourself in an awkward or potentially embarrassing situation?  Do you try and avoid it?  Or are you the type of person that just owns it? 

I learned a little bit about myself today.  I learned that I'm the kind of person that just owns it.  I own it hard.

Let's take the gym locker room for example.  There are lots of embarassing and awkward situations that happen in locker room, right?  Like when you exit the shower in your way-too-tiny-gym-towel and run into an acquaintance.  What do you do?  Do you ignore them and make your way to the dressing room?  Or do you say hi?

Well, if you're anything like me you have that moment of awkward panic in your head, but then you say hello.  Then you take it a step further into that this-is-totally-awkward-but-I'm-trying-to-make-it-not-be territory and ask how they're doing.  Then you mentally pat yourself on the back for owning the awkward situation... get dressed... put your contacts in... and realize that you didn't actually the know the person at all.  

So what I  really learned about myself today is that not only am I the person that owns an awkward situation, but apparently, I create them. 

If there is one thing that I can do for you, I hope it is this: prevent awkward situations at the dinner table. Forget the locker room.  Nothing is more awkward than showing up to a dinner party and bringing the exact same item as another guest.

Christmas cookies?  Been there.  Kale salad?  Done that.  Veggie platter?  Forget about it.  Lentil loaf? Now we're talking.

This lentil loaf was the very first thing that I made when I became vegetarian and it's been a staple in my home ever since.  It's one of my favorite items to bring to potlucks and get-togethers because I've never seen anyone else show up with a similar item, but it's also a great main dish that can be enjoyed by everyone. Even meat-eaters will find this dish to be a delicious and hearty veggie option.  There's nothing awkward about that.

This loaf has minimal hands-on prep time, but you can even cook the lentils ahead of time to make assembly faster.  If using regular rolled oats, I recommend pulsing them for a few seconds in a food processor to make them a little smaller and easier to incorporate into the loaf.  You can also mash some of the cooked lentils in the food processor along with the oats to help the loaf bind together better.

Lentil Loaf
Serves 4 - 6

2 cups water
1 cup grey or brown lentils
2 Tbs ground flaxseeds + 4 Tbs water
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup instant or regular rolled oats
1 cup tomato sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup BBQ sauce
2 Tbs ketchup

Bring water to a boil.  Add lentils and simmer 25 - 30 minutes, until lentils are soft and water is evaporated.  Drain any excess water and partially mash lentils.  Scrape into mixing bowl and allow to cool slightly.

Mix the flaxseeds and water together and let sit for about 15 minutes. (This will allow it to become sticky and will be a better binder for the loaf.)

Saute the onion in the oil in a pan over medium heat.  Cook for 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent. 

Stir the onion and oats into the lentils until mixed.  Add the flax mixture, tomato sauce, garlic, basil, parsley, salt, and pepper.  Mix well.

Spoon into loaf pan that has been generously sprayed with non-stick spray.  Smooth the top with the back of a spoon.  Top with the BBQ sauce and ketchup.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes until the top of the loaf is dry, firm, and golden brown.  Let cool in pan for about 10 minutes.  Run a sharp knife around the edges of pan then turn out onto a serving platter.  Top with additional BBQ sauce or ketchup if needed.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fall Celeriac Soup

Two years ago I went on a 5-day silent meditation retreat just before Thanksgiving.  It was the first time I had practiced meditating or taken a vow of silence.  I instantly fell in love with the practice.  Even though the five quiet days felt like an eternity, it was the break from the world that I really needed at that time. 

I promised myself that when I got back home from the retreat, I would continue to practice meditation and find quiet solitude at home.  But, as normal life resumed, my hopes of daily meditation fleeted.  I made a meditation alter, but only sat in front of it once.  I never bought that meditation bench.  And I came up with constant excuses for why I couldn't "find the time" to meditate at home.

Then the next year rolled around and I told myself I was going on the retreat again.  I was going to strengthen my meditation practice and bring it home with me this time.  No excuses.

However, I couldn't find that peaceful meditation on that retreat.  It was probably due to the fact that I was in the middle of a very stressful job transition and spent most of the time at the center on my iPhone answering emails.  Even though I knew phones weren't allowed at the center, I hoped that by getting work done it would alleviate my stress and allow me to focus.  No surprises here, but all it did was cause more stress.

This year I have decided not to go on the retreat. This has been a tough decision and I've waffled back and forth, but I finally realized that if I really want to find quiet time in my life I have to do it at home. It's easy to go away somewhere else and feel relaxed and at peace, but it's much harder to create that same peace in everyday life.

Of course the first place that I'm turning to in my life for inspiration is cooking.  Being at home in my kitchen is one of the best parts of my life daily and I've decided to use it as a space for quiet time and reflection.  My plan is to begin by cleaning and organizing my kitchen to make the space even more inviting and relaxing.  Then I'm going to make soup. 

I'm sure you've heard me rave about my love for soup by now because it's so easy to make. I've already been enjoying coconut squash soup and acorn squash apple soup this season, but I have become so infatuated with celeriac that I declided it needed to have a soup of its own.

Do you cook with celeriac in your kitchen?  Celeriac is also called celery root and usually starts popping up at the market in fall.  It looks like a golden brown root ball and somehow reminds me of the mandrakes from Harry Potter. 

Celeriac has a sweet and delicate celery-like flavor that is perfect in soups, salads, and stirfries. The smaller the celeriac, the more flavorful it will be because it tends to taste woodier as it grows bigger. To prepare it, wash and scrub the skin and then cut the outer layer away using a paring knife. It can be eaten raw or cooked and I particularly like it shredded and added to raw salads or roasted with other root vegetables.

This soup has a sweet, delicate flavor with hints of celeriac, leek, and fennel.  I recommend topping it off with fresh lemon zest, red chili pepper flakes, and a drizzle of olive oil.  This soup will not only keep you warm during these chilly fall days, but hopefully it will inspire more peace and quiet time in your life too. 

Fall Celeriac Soup
Serves 4 - 6

1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 medium leeks, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
3 garlic cloves
2 medium celery roots (or 3 small), skinned and chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
2 cups (cooked) garbanzo beans
2 bay leaves
6 cups vegetable broth
zest from 1 lemon
red chili pepper flakes
olive oil for drizzling

Add olive oil to large pot over medium heat. Saute the leek in olive oil for several minutes, until fragrant. Add the thyme, sage, and garlic and sauté for an additional minute. Add the celeriac, fennel, beans, and bay leaves.  Add enough vegetable broth to cover vegetables with liquid (about 6 cups) and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, turn the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the celeriac and fennel are tender. 

Remove the bay leaves. Next, blend the soup by using an immersion blender or transferring it to a regular blender. Add more broth or water, if needed. (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 pot holder or towel in hand.) 

Serve hot and top with lemon zest, red chili pepper flakes, and olive oil before serving.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Truffled Mashed Potatoes

What I really want to be telling you about right now is pear crisp. Yes, pear crisp. I assisted for a cooking class the other evening that served the most simple and incredible pear crisp. It has been in my dreams ever since.

However, I have yet to make this most-amazing pear crisp because I know the minute that I do, I will do nothing but eat it. Nonstop until the entire pan is gone. And I will skip going to the gym, forget to feed my cats, and probably take an afternoon nap instead. That crisp is dangerous business.

But mashed potatoes?  I can handle mashed potatoes.  I trust myself to make mashed potatoes and still go on with the rest of my life.  

Can I be honest with you for a moment?  Prior to today, I've never made mashed potatoes before.  Why? Well, the last time I had mashed potatoes was about six years ago at Thanksgiving and I remember thinking there was nothing to it but butter.  I'm not a fan of starchy, super buttery foods so once going vegan I didn't even try to recreate this with margarine.

But, mashed potatoes with truffle oil?  Hmm, I was intrigued.

These are exactly what mashed potatoes should taste like if you ask me:  rich and flavorful, with a hint of buttery-taste and salt.  Absolute perfection.  I know that truffle oil can be a bit pricy, so feel free to use olive oil instead.  Olive oil gives the recipe a slightly different flavor, but you still get delicious results.

Truffled Mashed Potatoes
From Vegetarian Times
Serves 6

2 lb fingerling or Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and halved
2 Tbs truffle oil
1 Tbs finely chopped parsley

Bring potatoes, garlic, and enough water to cover all by 1 inch to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 20 minutes, or until potatoes are soft when pricked with a fork.  Drain, and reserve 1 cup cooking liquid.

Return potatoes and garlic to saucepan; mash with reserved cooking water until smooth.  Stir in truffle oil and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Spinach and Kale Salad with Pear Vinaigrette

Here's a little writing tip for you... If you should ever find yourself racking your brain for writing topics and coming up short, write about cats.  Everyone has an opinion on cats.  Hopefully your readers' opinions are favorable, but even if they are not maybe they'll stick around long enough to tell you that your cats look creepy.  It's okay... 'cause mine totally do.

This week we had a new addition to the family, and like any good mother, I have to share photos and brag.  If you've been hanging around this blog for awhile you've probably met Bilbo by now.  Frodo is the new little brother.  10 pounds, 5 ounces, and energetic as heck.  Try and stop that guy from climbing your curtains.  Just try.  

And just to set the record straight: neither of their names were my idea.  But once the vet starts referring to you as the "Lord of The Rings Mom," you just kinda have to go with it.  If Lord of The Rings is not the natural transition to talking about spinach and kale salad with pear vinaigrette then I don't know what is.

This is the perfect salad for fall because it's hearty and goes well with the warm, comforting dishes that we love this time of year.  The pear dressing adds a nice bit of sweetness that livens up the kale and spinach.  You can use red kale like I did for color contrast, but any type of kale will do.  I liked adding pecans, dried cranberries, lemon zest, and white pepper for extra flavor, but you can easily leave these items out or add in your favorites.  

Pear Vinaigrette
Makes 1/2 cup

1/2 pear, diced
1 Tablespoon water
1 Tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Add pear, water, and sherry vinegar to food processor.  Add olive oil in a thin stream with the blade running.  Process until smooth, scraping down the sides and re-processing as necessary.

Spinach and Kale Salad
Serves 4

4 large kale leaves, destemmed, and chopped
4 cups spinach leaves, chopped
1/2 pear, sliced
1/3 cup pecans, optional
1/4 cup (fresh or dried) cranberries, optional
zest from 1 lemon, optional
ground white pepper, optional

Add dressing to kale in large bowl.  Massage dressing onto kale with your hands, thoroughly rubbing the leaves.  (This will help to break down the kale and make it less tough.) Toss with the spinach.  Divide the salad among four plates and top with pears, pecans, cranberries, lemon zest, and white pepper if desired. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Spicy Roasted Golden Beets

Some people's apartments smell like vanilla and cinnamon sugar.  These people make me jealous.  They make me want to go home and light vanilla-scented candles while baking cookies.  But I just end up watching Bridesmaids instead. 

Other people's apartments smell like citrus and orange blossoms.  These usually happen to be the people that have perfectly organized kitchen drawers and labels in their pantry.  As much as I have tried to be like you, it just isn't going to happen.  Not this year at least. 

I've been told that my apartment smells like lavender, but I sometimes worry that it really smells like beets and cats.  I think the neighbors might be in on this little secret too since I've been roasting root veggies every night this week.  Oh well.  Maybe it will just inspire you to come home and make roasted beets.  I promise I won't judge if you end up watching Bridesmaids instead.

Spicy Roasted Golden Beets
Serves 4

2 bunches of medium golden beets, tops trimmed and quartered
2 Tbs coconut oil

1/2 teaspoon cumin 
1/2 teaspoon paprika
a pinch of chile powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Toss beets with oil and lay flat on sheet pan.  Toss with spice mixture.  Roast for 30 minutes, or until tender.  Sprinkle with some additional salt and pepper, if desired.  Serve warm.