Monthly Archives: June 2011

SUMMER FUN – Blog Slow-Down

The kids FINALLY got out of school last Thursday, so we are now into Summer full swing.  I really enjoy having the kids home full-time and get so excited to plan activities and go play with them…therefore, my blogs will be slowing down a bit for the next few months.  Summer really belongs to my kids and I love it that way.

So… bring on the trips to the science center, camp drop-offs, and get togethers with family and friends.  I am in my element this time of year!

Of course all of those fun activities still need to be powered by great food (which I love to cook), but the posts telling you about that food just won’t be as frequent until school starts back up again (I am aiming for 2 times a week).

Enjoy your Summer!

Gretchen

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PATRIOTIC CHEESECAKE – Vegan and Gluten Free

This recipe is my entry for the Spunky Holiday roundup.  I recently came across the blog, The Spunky Coconut, and am so glad I did.  I have already made several of the recipes from the site and my family has loved them.  I really like the idea of a recipe round-up and the sense of community participating in one creates.  I had a lot of fun creating this cheesecake for the round-up and my family and I have had even more fun eating it!

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INGREDIENTS

CRUST
1 ½ cup Gluten Free graham style crumbs (I used kinnikinnick foods)
1-2 packets stevia
6 Tbs. Earth Balance Soy-Free Spread
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BASIC FILLING
2 cups raw cashews (soaked 6-8 hours)
1 cup unsalted macadamia nuts (soaked 6-8 hours)
2 tsp probiotic powder (I used New Chapter All Flora)
½ cup filtered water
1 Tbs. meyer lemon juice
1/3 cup So Delicious Vanilla coconut creamer
1 Tbs. vanilla flavor (mine is by Frontier)*
4 Tbs. agave or maple syrup
4 stevia packets
Pinch of salt
*Do not use vanilla extract.  Since this is raw the alcohol will not cook out and will taste bad.
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Blue
½ cup frozen organic blueberries
1 cup Basic Filling
All natural blue food coloring (optional)
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White – Basic Filling (as is) OR
1/2 cup sliced bananas
1 cup Basic Filling
 
Red
½ cup sliced organic strawberries
1 cup Basic Filling
All natural red food coloring (optional)

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Upon first glance this cheesecake recipe seems much more time consuming than it really is.  This is how I easily tackle this recipe…

In the morning put 2 cups of raw cashews and 1 cup of macadamias in a container and cover the nuts with filtered water.  Place the container in the fridge to soak (click here to see how I did just this for raw vegan goat cheese).

In the afternoon or evening take the container of cashews and macadamias out of the fridge and drain and rinse the nuts.  Place the drained and rinsed nuts in your Vitamix along with ½ cup filtered water and blend VERY well.  This process will take quite a few minutes and your Vitamix will be working very hard!  Make sure you use the center agitator to help it along.  You want to mixture to be very, very, very smooth…it will be warm from all of the blending.

Once the mixture is smooth, place it in a bowl and combine with the probiotic powder.  Mix well.

Place the mixture in a cheesecloth lined colander and cover it.  Place the colander in a bowl (in case any liquid leaks out) and leave it out at room temperature for 12 hours to cure (overnight).  You can also place a plate and pie weights on top of the cheesecloth to encourage the release of moisture.

Meanwhile make the crust by combining the graham style crumbs with the melted Earth Balance and Somersweet.  Once combined, press the graham crust into the bottom of a springform pan or create individual cheesecakes by using a mini crumb cake pan and filling each with 1 Tbs. of the graham crust mixture and pushing it down (in a crumb cake pan the bottom of each cake lifts-up to help unmold the cakes).  Place in the fridge to set-up.

In the morning place the cured cheese mixture in a bowl and use a hand mixer to blend in 1 Tbs. lemon, 1/3 cup So delicious, 1 Tbs. vanilla, ¼ cup agave, 4 stevia packets, and a pinch of salt.  The Basic Filling recipe is now complete.

Create the blue layer by blending 1 cup of the Basic Filling with ½ cup of frozen blueberries (optional blue food coloring).

For the white layer, either use the Basic Filling as is or blend 1 cup of the Basic Filling with ½ cup of sliced bananas.

Create the red layer by blending 1 cup of the Basic Filling with ½ cup of sliced strawberries (optional red food coloring).

Pipe a small layer of the blueberry mixture onto each crust.  Smooth the layer to make it level and follow with a layer of white, and then a layer of red.  Place in the freezer to set-up for 1-2 hours or overnight.

Remove from the freezer 10-15 minutes before serving to allow the cheesecake to thaw slightly.

Top with your favorite non-dairy whipped cream and fresh berries.

For a printable version of this recipe click here.

Note – I am a Vitamix affiliate and whole-heartedly endorse the use of this wonderful machine!

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Filed under Cheesecake, Dessert, Gluten Free, Nuts, Raw, Recipes, Vegan, Vegetarian

GUEST POST – Hemp as a Food Source

Today’s Guest Post is by Hailey Mills of Rain Hemp.  Hailey is passionate about sharing the benefits of hemp and does so through her blog (http://raindrops2000.wordpress.com/) and website (http://www.rainhemp.biz/index.html) where she sells all things hemp.

For those of you who worry that hemp is a product or marijuana…please rest assured that it is not.  Hemp contains less than 1 percent of the active ingredient THC, the substance that gives pot smokers a high. Marijuana plants, on the other hand, can contain 10 to 20 percent THC.

“Marijuana plants and hemp plants also have different appearances and are harvested differently. Marijuana plants tend to be short and bushy, while hemp plants can have stalks that are 25 feet high! Unlike marijuana, hemp has many uses. Over 25,000 products can be manufactured from hemp, including hair conditioner, diapers, insulation, carpets, rope paper, and perfume.  Hemp as a food is one of the most easily absorbed by the body, and can help you live a healthier life.” – Iamshaman

Enjoy Hailey’s post…

Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) is one of Mother Nature’s perfect foods.  With over 240,000 known uses for hemp, an annual growing season of five months or under, no need for fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides, no abundant water supply required, a natural ability to replenish the soil after each crop cycle, and adaptability in that it can grow on every Continent of planet earth, is it any wonder hemp is known as a Super Crop?

Hemp has been grown for 2000 years for the fiber produced in its stems and as a food source for its fruit – hemp.  Hemp seeds are sometimes referred to as hemp hearts and are a wonderful whole food that can also be broken down further into hemp oil, hemp milk, and hemp protein.  Hemp hearts, hemp oil, and hemp milk can be used in countless ways and added to many familiar recipes such as brownies, cookies, cakes, salads, breads, shakes and smoothies, crackers and hemp cereal. The possibilities are endless when it comes to using hemp…There is even hemp protein and hemp coffee.

There are many reasons to include hemp seeds and other hemp food products in your diet:

* Hemp provides key essential amino acids that your body can not produce on its own.

* Hemp is a complete source of protein, more balanced and digestible than soy

* 3Tbs of hemp packs a whopping 11g of protein

* Hemp can provide more protein than milk, eggs, and some meat products.

* Hemp hearts contain 47% hemp oil, 87% of which is omega 3,6, and 9.

* Hemp contains all the essential omega fats required for human health and several times more omega 3 than any fish.

* Perfect for those with constipation issues and those avoiding starches.

Hemp has many health benefits including:

* Lowering blood pressure

* Improving digestion

* Constipation relief

* Assisting weight loss

* Increasing energy

* Controlling blood sugar

* Aiding Detoxification

This wonderful food source which grows naturally has many uses and benefits that contribute to our over all health and well being.

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While I am not a big fan of the taste of hemp protein powder, hemp seeds have a very pleasant nutty taste.  I have been making it a habit to top my salads with hemp seeds as well as my breakfast cereal.  The last time I made granola I added 1 cup of hemp seeds to it (click here for granola recipe).  Hemp is also the main ingredient in one of my favorite dips (pictured below) which I introduced to you in one of Kristen Suzanne’s Guest Posts for Veggie Grettie (click here for Cheezy Hemp Nacho Sauce recipe).

Top image courtesy of ecoki.com

Middle image courtesy of hempproteinhealth.com

Bottom image courtesy of Kristen Suzanne

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Filed under Education, General Vegan, Protein, Vegan, Vegetarian

PIZZA AND PAINTBALL

A few weeks ago my son turned 10!  It is hard to believe that he is already 10 years old.  For his party we played paintball at Hollywood Sports Park (so fun!).  My husband found out that Hollywood Sports Park has special paintballs that are 50 caliber and about half the size of standard paintballs, so they do not hurt as much (but I can attest to the fact that they DO hurt, but not too bad).  The boys had so much fun and so did the adults!

Notice the paint splatter on my chest…my son shot me there!!!

For lunch we ordered pizza…the all too typical B-Day fare, but it was his big day and he got to choose the menu.  I was happy to see that the boys gobbled-up the grapes and oranges I brought along which meant that we had TONS of pizza left-over.

While standard American pizza is not the healthiest, I wasn’t about to throw it away since I am not a huge fan of wasting food (or anything for that matter).  My solution was to veganize it (remove the cheese) and pump-it up with veggies (roasted grape tomatoes along with sautéed spinach in garlic) and homemade pesto (basil, parsley, garlic, nutritional yeast, pine nuts and olive oil).  The result was absolutely delicious!

So often when we go to parties we assume we are at the mercy of the menu in front of us, but we can almost always make modifications.  The menu at most pizza parties includes pizza, salad, fruit and veggies.  Why not remove the cheese from the pizza and top it with the salad and a sprinkle of Italian dressing?

Always be thinking, “How can I make this work for me and the lifestyle I want to live?”

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Filed under General Vegan, Quick, Vegan, Vegetarian

PRODUCT REVIEW – The Artisanal Kitchen EVOO

I was recently sent a sample of The Artisanal Kitchen’s “Three Olives” 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil to try (first cold pressed).  This olive oil is both grown and produced in California (I LOVE local products) and is an olive oil made with the Arbequina (native to Spain), Arbosana, and Koreneiki (original to Greece) olives.

While I try not to have too much oil in my diet, I do cook with olive oil and use it in dressings, so it is important to me that I have a good olive oil on hand.  It is also important to me that my olive oil be grown without pesticides.  The information I received from The Artisanal Kitchen did not speak to this issue, so I contacted Anna Zoitas, the owner and creator.  Anna’s response to me was:

Although we are currently not certified organic we do not apply pesticides directly to olives or olive trees. We do add copper and other nutrients to the soil in the orchards. Fortunately, we haven’t had an encounter with olive fly.

Hope that helps!

Best,

Anna

There are many great farmers out there that do not use pesticides, but haven’t gone through the Organic Certification process which can be very costly and time-consuming.

The flavor of the olive oil was great.  I wanted to try it in different applications so I used it in salad dressing and when I cooked.  I appreciated the mellow flavor and low acidity (below 0.5%).

For more information about The Artisinal Kitchen and Anna Zoitas click here.

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SALSA FRESCA

Salsa Fresca is so basic and something I always have on hand.  I make large batches of it and keep it in the freezer in 1 cup portions.  The Salsa Fresca recipe below is the secret ingredient in my famous guacamole (friends and family always ask for it when we have get togethers).

INGREDIENTS

4 lbs. tomatoes on the vine

1 large onion (red or yellow)

1 large bunch of cilantro

1 jalapeno

juice of 1 lime

Himalayan salt to taste

pepper to taste

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Wash all ingredients.

Cut the tomatoes in half and seed them.  Once seeded, chop the tomatoes into large even chunks (8-12 pieces) and put them into the food processor (you may need to do this in 2-3 batches).  Pulse until the tomatoes are the size you desire.  Place the finely chopped tomatoes into a large bowl.

Place the cilantro into the food processor and pulse it until it is finely chopped.  Place the chopped cilantro in the bowl with the chopped tomatoes.

Cut the onion into 8-12 pieces and place it in the food processor.  Cut the jalapeno in half and finely chop it (I wear non latex gloves while chopping jalapenos).  If you do not want your salsa fresca to be spicy, remove and disgard the jalapeno seeds.  Pulse the onion and jalapeno until it is finely chopped.  Place the chopped onion and jalapeno mixture into the bowl with the tomatoes and cilantro.

Place the chopped onion and jalapeno mixture into the bowl with the tomatoes and cilantro.  Gently mix the chopped tomatoes, cilantro, onion, jalapeno, and juice of one lime until well combined.  Salt and pepper to taste.

For a printable version of this recipe click here.

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Filed under Gluten Free, Raw, Recipes, Sauce / Spread / Jam / Yogurt, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian

ASK GRETTIE – Eliminating Cheese From Your Diet

This is my latest column for Chic Vegan.

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I am in need of your expertise. I am considering taking dairy out of my kid’s diet to look more like me & my husband’s diet, but I am finding the right cheese replacement to be the hardest part. They really like the soy cheese, but I don’t want them to have that much soy. They also like the rice and/or almond cheese but they both contain casein, which is in dairy and not exactly healthy for you! All the ones at Whole Foods that say Vegan have soy and all the Rice Cheese have casein. Can’t decide which is worse…Help…any suggestions? Do you make nut cheeses for your kids?

Thanks!
Sirica

I love to hear that parents are considering taking dairy out of their children’s diet.  My children do not consume dairy and are thriving!  That being said, it can be a tough battle to remove something from a child’s diet if they really have a fondness for it.  I removed dairy from my children’s diet about 3 years ago and some items were harder to remove than others.  There was some kicking and screaming with regards to the removal of string cheese.  The milk was easier to remove because I slowly changed their milk without them even realizing it.  My method involved slowly diluting their milk with almond milk.  On day one I replaced about 1/6th of their milk with almond milk and the next week it went to ¼ of their milk, the next week 1/3, then ½, ¾, until it was all almond milk.  I personally think that the milk transition would have been even easier if at the time I had access to So Delicious’s Unsweetened Coconut Milk.

Now, onto cheese.  People have a true addiction to cheese.  In PCRM’s (Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine) research studies, “When we take people off meat, dairy products, and other unhealthy fare, we often find that the desire for cheese, in particular, lingers on much more strongly than for other foods. While they might like ice cream or yogurt, they describe their feelings for cheese as a deep-seated craving.” It has been found that cow’s milk and human milk both have trace amounts of morphine in them.  It is theorized that this helps babies bond with their mothers when breast feeding. According toVegSource.com“[C]ows actually produce it within their bodies, just as poppies do. Traces of morphine, along with codeine and other opiates, are apparently produced in cows’ livers and can end up in their milk.  Cow’s milk-or the milk of any other species, for that matter-contains a protein, called casein, that breaks apart during digestion to release a whole host of opiates, called casomorphins. A cup of cow’s milk contains about six grams of casein. Skim milk contains a bit more, and casein is concentrated in the production of cheese.”

As long as you understand that the removal of cheese will be difficult and you make the decision to stay the course, you will survive the transition and be glad you stuck it out.  In my opinion, there is no direct replacement for dairy cheese in the vegan world.  As for substitutes, different vegan cheeses serve different purposes.  You are right that a lot of the vegan cheese substitutes out there do contain casein as well as soy.  Perhaps these cheese substitutes can help your children with their transition away from dairy cheese.  One thing is for certain, they are more healthful than dairy cheese.  Daiya has been a great substitute for me.  I do not use it all the time due to its high fat content, but it makes wonderful grilled “cheese” sandwiches and macaroni and cheese (click here for my recipe).  I do make nut cheeses on occasion and find that they work really well in my lasagna recipes or as ricotta substitutes.  If I make the nut cheese on its own (i.e. to eat with crackers), I find that I like it more than my children do, but my nephew loved it the last time he tried it.  Mostly I have made peace with the fact that I don’t NEED a replacement for cheese.  For example, pizza tastes great without cheese as does garlic bread and pesto can be made with nutritional yeast.  I think we all need to change the way we think about cheese.

Congratulations on making the decision to improve your children’s health.

~Gretchen

**Do you have a questions for Grettie? She is here to answer any of your health and nutrition related questions! Email her ataskgrettie@chicvegan.com .**

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Filed under Chic Vegan Column, Children, Education, Food Substitutions, General Vegan, Research, Vegan, Vegetarian

MEXICAN WEDDING CAKE BITES

I can remember the first time I tried a Mexican Wedding Cake cookie.  If I remember correctly, my mom was baking holiday cookies and got the recipe for them from one of our neighbors.  I was an instant fan.  I loved the intensely pecan flavor of this cookie and its sugar-coating.

I recently held a vegan cooking (although there was no “cooking” involved) demonstration as part of NEXT Week.  I am a Brand Ambassador for NEXT by Athena and the company put on a great event.  During NEXT week there were tons of free classes held at the Swimspot store at the Irvine Spectrum… everything from pilates, yoga, Pure Barre classes, to my cooking demonstration.  I decided to keep the cooking demonstration easy and made three varieties of my Cookie Dough Bites; PB and C Cookie Dough Bites (click here for the recipe), Mexican Wedding Cake Bites, and Gingerbread Bites.

My kids love my cookie dough bites.  Most everyone I know likes to have something sweet from time to time and these are great for those occasions because there really isn’t anything in them that is too “bad.”  Yes, you do want to make sure you don’t get too much fat in your diet, but I would MUCH rather have the fat in your diet come from nut butters than animal products.  While my version of these Cookie Dough Bites does not have the traditional powdered sugar-coating, you could definitely opt to do so.

Falling back on my simple is best philosophy, these are crazy easy to make and come together in a snap.

The Mexican Wedding Cake Bites are my son’s favorite Cookie Dough Bites, so without further ado…

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COOKIE BASE
1 cup roasted cashew butter
½ cup Somersweeet **
2 tsp Frontier vanilla flavor ***
1 cup toasted pecans (blended into a meal)
 
** As an alternative you can use sucanut, coconut sugar, date sugar, or powdered sugar
***DO NOT use vanilla extract.  Since these are not cooked, the alcohol in the extract won’t taste good.
 
SUGAR COATING
¼ cup Somersweet **
¼ tsp cinnamon

On the stove over medium-low, toast the pecans (watch carefully to prevent burning).  Once tasted, remove them to cool.

Place the cooled toasted pecans in the food processor and process into a meal.

With a hand blender, cream together the cashew butter, ½ cup Somersweet and vanilla flavor.  Once the mixture is creamed, mix in the toasted pecan meal (I use my hands).

Once the mixture is creamed, mix in the toasted pecan meal (I use my hands while wearing non-latex gloves I bought at Costco).

Form the dough into small rounds (about 1Tbs. each).  In a separate bowl, combine ¼ cup Somersweet with ¼ tsp. cinnamon.  Roll the rounds in the cinnamon/sugar mixture.

Place in an airtight container in the refrigerator to firm-up.  The cookies should keep in the fridge for a week.

For a printable version of this recipe click here.

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Filed under Cookies / Bars, Dessert, Gluten Free, Kid Friendly, Nuts, Recipes, Vegan, Vegetarian

PRODUCT REVIEW – De Boles Gluten Free Rice Spirals

De Bole’s Gluten Free Rice Spirals were so disappointing that I was left wondering why I ever ventured away from our tried and true favorite gluten free pasta (Ancient Harvest Quinoa Pasta).

I saw the De Boles pasta on sale at Pavilions and decided to give it a try for dinner the other night.  I made some really yummy fresh pesto a few nights before as the sauce for pizza and planned on using the remainder of it on the pasta.

I cooked the De Bole’s pasta according to the the directions and it ended-up being gummy, but still tasted raw.  The texture was gooey, but some of the centers were still crunchy; it was a hot mess!…so much so that I rewarded our kids for eating it by allowing them to have So Delicious ice cream after dinner.

Have any of you tried this pasta???

Image courtesy of deboles.com 

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Filed under Gluten Free, Product Reviews, Vegan, Vegetarian

BAJA CORN CHOWDER

Fresh corn is so good this time of year.  When I created this chowder I was interested in making a corn chowder with a Baja twist, but I wanted a chowder that celebrated the crisp sweetness of the corn and did not drown it out with too many other flavors…it deserves to be the star!  This chowder will thicken the longer it sits.  If it becomes too thick, add some water or some more broth.  I also like to have different textures in my chowder.  You are more than welcome to blend all of the soup…I prefer to blend some of the soup and keep some of the corn and veggies chunky.

Below I listed some flavor options for those who are looking for a little more zing.  This time I made the chowder as it is written in the recipe below without the flavor options…I will add those next time I make the chowder.

INGREDIENTS – Serves 4-6

1-2Tbs. olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
¾ cup celery, finely diced
¾ cup carrot, finely diced
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground coriander
3 cups corn (I used grilled corn)
32 ounces vegetable broth
6 corn tortillas, browned
Pepper to taste
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ADDITIONAL FLAVOR OPTIONS

½-1 jalapeno, very finely diced
1 tsp. cumin
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GARNISH

Chopped cilantro
Dash paprika (for color)
Lime wedges

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Collage 1 Baja Corn Chowder

Heat the olive oil in your soup pot over medium heat and sauté the onion, bell pepper, celery, and carrot (and jalapeno if using).

After sautéing for 5-7 minutes, add the coriander, salt, and pepper (and cumin if using).  Mix well to combine.

Add the corn and mix well.

Collage 2 Baja Corn Chowder

Pour the broth into the vegetable mixture and bring to a boil.  Once the soup has reached a boil, reduce the heat to simmer.  Place the tortillas onto the top of the soup for 2-3 minutes (this will soften them).

Remove the tortillas from the top of the soup and put them in your blender (I use my Vitamix).  Pour 6-8 ladles of soup and veggies over the tortillas.

Very carefully blend the tortillas and soup (Always be VERY careful when blending hot liquids).  You may need to do the blending in two batches.

Return the blended soup to the soup pot and mix well.

The soup is now ready to be served with the cilantro, lime, and a dash of paprika.

Baja Corn Chowder compress 11

For a printable version of this recipe click here.

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Filed under Gluten Free, Recipes, Soup, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian