Monday, October 31, 2011

Creamy Kale Comfort

Have I told you about this yet? My obsessive love for a simple dish called Creamy Millet and Kale Salad from my favorite food blog, YumUniverse? It's one of my all time favorites. It's easy to make. And it's kale, which is basically the most wonderful food on this planet.
I made it for my lunch today as a comfort food because I was all wound up about the prenatal appointment I was about to have. I woke up at one in the morning and couldn't get back to sleep because of it! Pathetic. I thought a warm, familiar food might help calm me down before I got to the clinic. I was wrong. I was wound as tight as a spring on the drive there! (I was worried that I would have high blood pressure from how jacked up I was, but I practiced my yoga breathing before they checked it and I guess that worked.) The only thing that alleviated my psychological turmoil was prayer. Duh, I should have known. The kale was still delicious; it just doesn't have the magical calming powers I was hoping for.

All my anxiety was silly anyway. The appointment was great, and I love love love my midwife! We're on the same brainwave about everything, and I feel loads better after finally having a real appointment. I thought this clinic was going to be weird and not supportive of natural childbirth, but the midwives are all about it and even have a wonderful water birth option I've chosen to do. We got to hear Baby Ross' heartbeat, and he/she was having hiccups at the time too. So cute. I finally feel relaxed and confident about this final stage. I hadn't realized just how stressed out I was until that weight was lifted. You know what I mean?

In fact, I felt so relieved that I came right home and made these Vegan Cow Pies and promptly devoured two of them.
I have no idea what proportions I used, but I combined oats, cashew butter, coconut oil, vanilla, and fair trade cocoa powder in a saucepan over low heat till it was all melted together and tasted good. Then I scooped them out into little "cow pies" on a nonstick surface and, like I said, ate two :) If you have a sweet tooth and need something pronto, this is the perfect treat to make. Quick, easy, and not too unhealthy. And with that my friends, I'm going to go pass out in exhaustion till dinner.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Thinking of Thanksgiving (yes, already)

Last year my family came down to visit us for Thanksgiving, and they're repeating the trip this year! I couldn't be more excited! Whenever I cook for people, I view it as a fun challenge to make a meal that surprises my guests with how delicious healthy eating can be when done well. I try to prepare at least one dish (although I usually struggle to limit it to only one!) that's completely out of the ordinary - something that people don't think they'll like but end up really enjoying. My family has a pretty healthy diet, and they're not picky about food at all, so I don't have a monumental challenge to overcome this Thanksgiving, but there's always room for improvement and expanding of horizons!

Anyway, I've already been thinking about the menu. To add to the challenge, I don't want to spend all my time in the kitchen. (That was my mistake last year.) I want to spend as much time with my family as possible. I also want to use as many local and seasonal ingredients as possible. I'll definitely be making the Thai-spiced Pumpkin Soup I made for our guests earlier this weekend, but I've had no other flashes of inspiration so far. I need help! Does anyone have any suggestions or go-to, plant-based Thanksgiving recipes? If so, please share!

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Feast!

We're having friends over for dinner tonight! I love hosting dinner parties, probably because I love food, and I think it's the perfect connector between people. I also love when my house is perfectly clean and everything is in its place :)  My only problem is that I tend to go too big and end up over-doing it. But I guess that's an ok problem to have. Tonight I'm keeping it simple enough and getting as much as possible done ahead of time. The menu includes Goat Cheese Cashew Encrusted Chicken, Emerald City Salad, Thai-Spiced Pumpkin Soup, a dinner salad from fresh CSA produce I'll be picking up this afternoon, and Vegan Cocoa-Coco-Nut-Nut Cookies. These are some of my favorite recipes, and I'm excited to share them with you!

Goat Cheese Cashew Encrusted Chicken
However many chicken breast you want
Salt and Pepper
Dijon mustard
Goat Cheese
Crushed cashews (original recipe calls for macadamia nuts, but two stores were out of them so I subbed cashews)
  • Preheat oven to 400. Lightly oil shallow baking dish and season chicken all over with salt and pepper. Place in baking dish and brush Dijon mustard on top. Cover with a generous portion of heavenly goat cheese. Crush cashews and sprinkle over goat cheese. Cover and bake 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 5-10 more minuted, until cheese is golden brown and chicken is cooked through.

Emerald City Salad is from my favorite cookbook I talk about all the time. It's a warm salad that involves wild rice and kale. What more could anyone want?

Here is the Thai-spiced Pumpkin Soup recipe. I'm using my heirloom Long Island Cheese pumpkin and saving the seeds! It's going to be extra good. (I'm glad Clint doesn't like pumpkin - more soup for me!)

Vegan Cocoa-Coco-Nut-Nut Cookies (adapted from this recipe by Sketch-free Vegan Eating)
2 cups gluten free flour blend (recipe immediately below)
  • 2 cups brown rice flour
  • 2 cups oat flour (I didn't have this so I used whole wheat flour, making mine non gluten free)
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup ground flax
2 teaspoons non-aluminum baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cocoa powder (buy fair trade!)
1 cup sucanat
3/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup water
Two handfuls chopped walnuts
1/2 cup shredded coconut
About 6 ounces vegan chocolate chips
  • Preheat oven to 350. Combine dry ingredients in one bowl and wet in another. Gradually add dry mixture into wet mixture. Stir in nuts, chips, and coconut. Scoop heaping tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheet and flatten a bit. Bake for 5 minutes, rotate cookie sheet, and bake 5 more minutes. Makes 24 cookies if you don't sample any of the dough!

Oh, and here is a photo from my trip to Maggy's! It was taken right before I hopped in the car to head home, and we were both trying not to boo-hoo. I miss those two girls like mad! And I'm totally jealous that they have another guest right now :)

One last piece of news - we are at the 30 week mark! Yup, I'm 30 weeks pregnant and think I'm starting the whole nesting thing. (Clint thinks I'm always nesting, but he hasn't seen anything yet!) I have such a strong desire to get everything perfect before the baby arrives. I have somewhere around 10 weeks to achieve it!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The best lunch ever

Carrot pate with sliced avocado in a collard wrap. Kale chips.

Now back to tearing down this wallpaper. Ugh. It's even more of a mess than I thought so I probably won't get the painting done today. Boo - that's the fun part!

Fall Fabulousness

Yesterday my mother in law and I went to the mountains to take in the fall colors and "get away" for a little bit. The leaves were beautiful, the sky was crystal clear, and the weather was perfect. I always find time in the mountains so refreshing, don't you? Just look at those colors.

We were gone the entire day and did lots of different things, but my favorite part of the day was stopping at a produce market on the side of the road. Barrels and barrels of apples of every kind! Monstrously huge turnips and collard greens! Tomatoes! Beets! All variety of seasonal produce! And . . . pumpkins! I got a bag of fresh, crisp, glorious apples, and promptly ate one as soon as we got back to the car. The juice was practically running down my chin and I couldn't have been happier.

Just as we were leaving the market I spotted this beauty:
It's an heirloom Long Island Cheese pumpkin. I wish this photo would show its beautiful color more clearly because let me tell you, it's gorgeous. I'm going to use it to make the mouthwatering pumpkin soup I had at Maggy's and then save the seeds to plant in my garden. I can't wait to grow my own Long Island Cheese!

Today my goal is to finish removing the hideous wallpaper in the dining room and replace it with paint - guacamole colored. It's going to look so great! Especially next to those delectable apples . . .

Monday, October 24, 2011

Still Alive

It's been two weeks since I've posted, but I'm still here! A lot has been happening since my last post - I visited my best friend in Virginia to help her take care of her newborn (pictures coming soon, right Maggy?); my wonderful husband installed a new operating system on my computer, so it was out of commission for a couple days; and we just celebrated our birthdays over the weekend - Clint turned 31 and I turned 25!

On the food front, I've been working to stock my freezer with good things to eat for after the baby is born. I don't know anyone here who eats the same food as me, and I'm going to need all the nutrition I can get during that time, so I'm stocking away! So far I have two different soups, salsa, pesto, hummus, peeled bananas to throw into a smoothie (Maggy's genius idea), and some vegan carrot muffins. I only have two more months left to load it up, so I still have a lot of work to do! What are some of your favorite meals to stock in the freezer?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Two Made-Up Dishes

I mixed up a big batch of dry pancake mix the other day, so I thought Clint and I might have pancakes tonight. It's a quick and easy supper that can be quite healthy with the right ingredients. When Clint got home he wasn't hungry for pancakes though, so I had to come up with a Plan B. I wanted something green, vegan, and healthy. I also wanted to use up some produce, and suddenly things just started happening. I'm not sure exactly what happened and I'm not sure exactly how it happened, but I'm pleased with the results!

I made some Stinky Walnut Cheese Crumble from the YumUniverse Dairy Freedom eGuide. The recipe is as close as you can get to plant based, non-dairy, soy-free blue cheese. I'm not a big blue cheese lover myself, but for some reason I wanted a sharp taste, so I gave it a whirl. I topped a bok choy and arugula salad with that "cheese," some dried Michigan cherries, and a lavender vinaigrette from Vintage Remedies. There were a lot of strong flavors, but somehow they all worked together and suited my taste quite nicely! I think I'll have this salad again for lunch tomorrow.

Then I decided to make a sort of vegan basil alfredo pasta sauce. It was good, but not quite as good as I imagined, so the recipe posted below includes modifications I will try the next time I make it! If you try it, please let me know any improvements you would make.
Vegan Basil Alfredo
2/3 cups cashews, soaked
3/4 - 1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 garlic clove, minced
Basil, however much you want
  • Blend all in food processor or blender. Be careful if you use a food processor - the water will probably seep out! Pour over favorite pasta. I think it would be extra delicious with the addition of some sundried tomatoes . . .
A word of caution: This dinner is full of sharp and strong flavors, which can lead to some, ahem, strong breath. "Breath of a funk" as my dad would say :) I wouldn't recommend eating any of it before going out in public!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pumpkin Coma

Wow. Let me just say it again, wow. I just drank about a 32 oz pumpkin smoothie. I meant to only drink 16 oz, but it was so good I went back for the second half. Now I'm going to have to roll myself around like a big orange pumpkin for the rest of the night - I'm stuffed! My friend posted the recipe on facebook the other day, and I knew I had to make it, and soon! I'll share the recipe with you too, but beware - I only recommend making it when you have someone to share it with, otherwise you'll end up drinking the whole thing like I did and putting yourself in a coma too!

1 cup pumpkin puree (homemade is of course best but organic canned pumpkin will do in a pinch)
1 frozen banana
1 cup coconut milk (I didn't have any coconut milk, so I just used 2 cups almond milk)
1 cup almond milk
Handful of pecans
2 tablespoons agave or a sprinkle of stevia
A little bit of cinnamon, salt, and vanilla, all to taste
  • Whip it all up in a blender and share with your favorite person in the world. They'll love you for it!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Rich, Creamy (and vegan!) Butternut Squash Soup

I'm becoming more and more of a soup fan each year, and when I received two butternut squash fresh from the field in my CSA share on Friday, I had to make my favorite butternut squash soup. It's so good that even some who aren't squash fans may like it. Plus, it's super quick and easy.

Butternut Squash Soup
2 butternut squash, baked and skin removed
2 cups vegetable broth
14 ounces coconut milk
2 teaspoons dried cilantr
1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Place all in soup pot and blend with hand blender. Warm on stove and garnish with fresh cilantro if desired.
I had the soup with my kale chips for lunch today. One of the best meals ever. The only thing that would have made it better is a warm slice of sourdough bread . . .

Speaking of, here's the sourdough update from yesterday.
Day 4 5:00pm
On Day 4 you refresh the culture. I added 1/4 pound lukewarm water and 2 ounces whole wheat flour. Now, for Days 5-9 fermentation will continue pretty much on its own, and there's not much I do to the culture. Regular feedings don't begin till Day 10.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


I chose to write my last herbal mini research paper on yarrow. My friend Becca and I got a yarrow plant and split it from the Forsyth Farmers Market in Savannah before I moved, so I wanted to know more about this herb that is now proliferating on my deck. My favorite use I discovered: break off a stalk and stuff it up your nose to stop a nosebleed. Awesome.

And the sourdough update - it's alive and growing twenty-four hours later!
Day 2 6:15pm

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Veggies Galore

I'm feeling more like a human again today (hooray!) but am still resting and taking care of my body as much as possible to send the remainder of this virus packing! I canceled all my plans one by one this week and just transferred them to next week, almost like this week didn't even exist. It's totally weird to be able to do that, and as difficult as it's been not to have a job, I'm thankful I've been able to rest and give my body adequate time to heal. Most people don't have that luxury. Today I filled my body with as much delicious, plant based nutrition as possible, and this was my lunch:

It's an open faced veggie "sandwiches" I threw together with leftover sauteed vegetables from my salad last night. The bread is raw sunflower sesame flatbread, topped with head lettuce, the veggies, and smothered with lemon tahini dressing. I'm sure most of you know that tahini is ground sesame seeds, or sesame butter, and that it's an important ingredient in hummus. I bet many of you didn't know that sesame seeds are high in protein, oil, iron, phosphorus, and B complex vitamins. (Make sure you only buy organic tahini though because icky chemicals are used in the processing of nonorganic.) It all added up to be a very nutritious, filling, and delicious lunch.

Dinner was another YumUniverse recipe: Vegan Chili with Gluten-Free Pasta, and it was another goodie. It's so filling and hardy that meat-lovers may not even notice that it's vegan. The only thing I would recommend is to use dried beans rather than the canned that the recipe calls for. Happy eating!

Monday, October 3, 2011

When you're craving chocolate, eat beets instead . . . ?

Well, at least that's what I'm trying to do. I'm still sick. Feeling better today, but yesterday is the sickest I've been in about as long as I can remember. And because of that I'm craving comfort foods: chocolate, muffins, cinnamon rolls, breads, cookies, and all manner of junk. It's a good thing I don't feel (or look) well enough to go to the store for the ingredients because I would probably bake myself into a coma. But I did have beets on hand. So yesterday I detached myself from the couch just long enough to make this Luscious Beet Salad with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds from my favorite cookbook, Feeding the Whole Family. I just at the whole bowl for lunch. Recipe is below the picture.
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
4 large beets with greens
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
2 scallions, finely chopped
  • Place all dressing ingredients in jar and shake well. Set aside.
  • Remove greens from beets. Wash beets and place in large pot covered with water; bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer till beets are tender (about an hour). Set aside to cool.
  • Toast pumpkin seeds by placing seeds in dry skillet over medium heat. Stir continuously with wooden spoon. When seeds begin to puff up and give off a nutty aroma they are ready. Remove from skillet and set aside.
  • To prepare beet greens, bring another pot of water to a boil. Remove stems and submerge leaves in boiling water until leaves are slightly wilted but still have a bright color and a succulent, sweet flavor. Pour cooked greens into colander and let cool. Squeeze out excess water then chop into bite-size pieces.
  • Peel beets by holding under a trickle of cold water and pushing skins off with your fingers. Cut into small cubes. Put cubed beets, greens, pumpkin seeds, and scallions in a salad bowl. Pour dressing over salad and toss gently. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
It's one of my favorite recipes and it's incredibly healthy, but let's face it, when it's chocolate you're craving, nothing else will do the trick. I'm holding on though, trying to starve the craving out.

Now this little beauty pictured below was truly my saving grace yesterday (besides Clint, who was so compassionate and took such good care of me. I don't know what I would do without him!) It's the only thing that made me feel better. It's peppermint essential oil diluted in coconut and grapeseed oils as the carrier oils. You massage it into your temples and forehead for headache relief. It was the one thing that brought any relief and relaxation yesterday. And it's just cute, don't you think? Plus, it's easy to carry with you wherever you go. From now on I'll always be sure to keep a little container around as part of my herbal medicine cabinet!

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Well, I love my new CSA, the one with Full Moon. This week's share included potatoes, arugula, green peppers, baby salad turnips, head lettuce, bok choy, beets, and eggplant. I feel like I'm drowning in arugula, peppers, and eggplant because I just got all of that on Tuesday from my other CSA that just ended, so I'm all ears if you have any recipes to share that use lots of those ingredients. Today I made Potato Salad with Bok Choy, Turnips, and Basil, a (slightly modified) recipe that was sent out in the CSA newsletter. It's very fresh tasting on a cool fall day!

1 pound medium-sized potatoes
5 stems of bok choy, with leaves
4 turnips
3 tablespoons finely minced fresh basil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil
Place potatoes in pot. Cover with cold water and a little salt. Bring to boil then reduce heat to medium, cover, and boil 15-18 minutes, till done. Chop choy (stems and greens) into small dice. Thinly slice turnips and mince basil. Combine vinegar, garlic, salt, sugar, oil, and basil and whisk together. Drain potatoes and cut into bite sized pieces while still warm. Toss in bowl with choy and radishes. Pour dressing over top and combine well. Refrigerate till completely cooled.

Thinking of food, health, and nutrition (as usual), this is a very important quote from The China Study that I want to share with you. I do not share it to be an insult to doctors, but to shed some light on a typical doctor's knowledge of nutrition. It's not a subject that's taught in medical school.
"You should not assume that your doctor has any more knowledge about food and its relation to health than your neighbors and coworkers. It's a situation in which nutritionally untrained doctors prescribe milk and sugar-based meal-replacement shakes for overweight diabetics, high-meat, high-fat diets for patients who ask how to lose weight, and extra milk for patients who have osteoporosis. The health damage that results from doctors' ignorance of nutrition is astounding."
I saw evidence of this just the other day while my friend was in the hospital with her newborn. She was served bacon, fried potatoes, eggs, and Fruit Loops for breakfast, and those choices were made specifically for her as a nursing mom. Some of the lunch choices included fried fish, hot dog, BLT, and hamburger. I was shocked and appalled by this information. In a hospital, in a place that is supposedly all about health and healing, they are serving the very food that is at the core of our modern diseases. It's really sad because the vast majority of Americans don't know any different.