Sunday, November 20, 2011

Wild Rice Stuffing

I thought I would try a gluten free recipe for stuffing this year. It's been so long since I've had wild rice and this sounded so good. It was delicious when I made it today. Even got compliments on it tonight at a church dinner. If you've ever had wild rice, you've experienced that wonderful chewy texture. It'll all come back to you, when you have some of this stuffing.

You can substitute other dried fruit and nuts instead of apricots and pecans. If you don't want a sweet element to it, just leave out the dried fruit altogether. Allergic to nuts? Leave out the pecans. This is made like bread stuffing, but uses brown rice and wild rice instead. You could also use this to stuff peppers, winter squash and maybe even mushrooms. Tell me how you use it.

Wild Rice Stuffing

1 Tablespoon grapeseed/coconut oil
1 1/2 cups chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup uncooked wild rice
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage (or 3/4 Tablespoons dried)
1 cup uncooked long-grain brown rice
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup chopped pecans
salt, to taste

In a large pot, on medium-high heat, saute celery, onion, wild rice, and garlic in oil for about 3 minutes. Stir in broth and sage. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and cover, then simmer for 25 minutes. Stir in brown rice and bring to boil again. Cover, reduce heat, and cook for 30 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, let stand, covered for 10 minutes. Stir in apricots and pecans and taste for seasoning.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Black Bean Chipotle Chili

A recent chili "cook-off" got me thinking about posting a chili recipe. I made some changes to one at Fatfree Vegan Kitchen. It has a rich, deep, dark color that looks and tastes wonderful. To make prep quick, use canned versions of the tomatoes, tomato sauce and beans.

This large recipe makes almost 4 quarts. Great for freezing ahead. As is, this recipe is mild enough while still giving a spicy heat. Instead of chili powder to give this soup its classic flavor, it relies on the real deal, a smoky chipotle pepper. If you want to cook in even more spicy heat, add another chipotle pepper to the recipe and enjoy.

Black Bean Chipotle Chili 

1 dried chipotle pepper, soaked with 3/4 cup water, pureed in blender
2 Tablespoons grapeseed oil/coconut oil
2 medium onions, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow (or red or orange) bell pepper, chopped
2 cups diced tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes with chiles
2 cups tomato sauce
6 cups cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons paprika (or smoked paprika)
4 teaspoons carob powder, mixed with 1/2 cup hot water
2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
1/4 cup raisins, soaked & pureed with 1 cup water
1/2 c. cornmeal, mixed with 1/4 cup water (optional thickener)

During the making of this chili, I was using my blender for a bit of the prep. You'll notice that the dried chipotle pepper and the raisins will need pureed (separately). Keep your blender (or personal blender handy for these two steps. A bowl and whisk will be helpful for the carob powder and optional cornmeal (also mixed separately). Because of these steps, I added water during cooking time (rinsing the blender and other containers, etc), so there is an option to add in a little cornmeal toward the end if you so desire. If you like a little more liquid in your chili, feel free to leave the cornmeal out.

Remove the stem (if still attached) from the dried pepper before soaking and proceed to soak and prep the pepper as stated, then set aside. Prepare the raisins as well at this time.

In a large pot, saute the onion in oil. When softened, add the garlic and bell pepper, then cook a few more minutes. Add the chili pepper puree, tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans, corn, and spices (except the carob, salt and raisins). Bring to a simmer.

In a small bowl, prepare the carob powder. Add it to the chili. Taste for seasonings and add salt to taste. Add raisin puree. You may add the optional cornmeal at this time, stirring the soup as you add it.  Cook for another 30 minutes or more at a low simmer, stirring occasionally.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Curried Nutmeat

This is from a book that I borrowed awhile back and never tried until now. The book, "Delights of The Garden" by Imar Hutchins has raw recipes that look different than you would expect, but it's a book to check out!

This recipe is a replacement for a raw curry flavored "meat" made with pecans. And yes, there seems to be a lot of spices, quantity wise. No mistake. Now I know why I've never achieved the true curry flavor that I've experienced in Indian restaurants.... Not enough herbs and spices! Really. The only major flavor difference will be your type of curry powder and how much pepper you add. A little of this goes a long way. Curry lovers, prepare to be amazed.

Curried Nutmeat

1 pound raw pecans
1 large onion, very finely chopped
1 /2 cup curry powder
1/2 cup scallions (green onions), chopped
1/4 cup thyme
1/4 cup parsley1 tablespoon sage
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 Tablespoons black pepper*
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper**

Grind pecans to a fine texture in a dry food processor using the S blade. Add finely chopped onion to the processor and process until a dough-like texture is achieved. Add curry powder, scallions and all other seasonings, then blend again. Add sea salt and pepper to taste. Spoon out in balls and serve with your favorite dish or use it to make sandwich. (We used it alongside boiled potatoes, and whatever dish we were having, over the course of a couple days.)

*I am still getting used to using black pepper in my cooking. I only used about 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. I will use more each time I make this to see were my preferred amount is.

**The day I made this we were beyond dangerously low on cayenne...we were out! So I actually did not use this at all. My 5 year old daughter (and the rest of us) loved this recipe as is. Next time I will put some cayenne pepper in the recipe, but probably not the full amount. My 13 year old son would be happy for more spice though. I may just keep out a portion for my daughter, then add the cayenne into the rest. Easy enough and everyone will be happy.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Date Logs

Another raw sweet to add to your collection of vegan recipes...from the book, "Raw Energy" (2009) by Stephanie Tourles.

Date Logs

15 Medjool dates, pitted
1 cup dried (finely shredded) unsweetened coconut
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch sea salt

Soak the dates for 4 hours in purified water to cover by 1 inch. Drain and reserve the soak water to use in smoothies or just to drink. Put the dates, coconut, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Using your hands, mash and knead the ingredients until the coconut is incorporated into the moist dates and a stiff dough ball forms.

Pinch off pieces of the dough and roll into nuggets or log shapes. Store in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for up to two weeks or in the freezer for up to 3 months. They will not get hard, just firm, in the freezer.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Coconut "Bacon"

 When we first went vegetarian, we used a lot of those vegetarian "bac'uns" (soy based "bacon bits") for salads and for flavor in other dishes. We decided to try them in the organic version and it turned me off completely. I did not like them at all.

We aren't using tvp (textured vegetable protein made with soy) anymore and use very little soy foods these days. Every now and again though, I get a hankerin' for a flavor like bacon...

One of the things that other people may also miss when going vegetarian are certain meats. For some reason, it always seems to be pork based products. Bacon is one of those that come to mind.

Enter a book by Ani Phyo, "Ani's Raw Food Essentials" (2010) and some young coconuts in my fridge...and you've got the makings of some real flavor. Ironic that I would post this after my weight loss posts, but it is what it is....=)

This is not soy free, but you can play with the recipe a little. Experiment on your own. It does call for a food dehydrator, but you can work around this, if you don't have one, by using your oven set on a low temperature with the door ajar. 

Raw Coconut Bacon

2 cups coconut meat (from 3 to 4 Thai baby coconuts)
3 Tablespoons Nama Shoyu or Bragg Liquid Aminos
2 Tablespoons olive oil
a few drops of liquid smoke flavoring (optional, not raw)

When scraping the meat out of your coconuts, try to keep pieces as large as possible. Clean the meat by running your fingers over its surface, picking off any pieces of hard husk. Rinse with filtered water as a last step, and drain well. (I also patted them dry with a paper towel.)

Place the coconut meat in a mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Toss to mix well. Lay the meat in a single layer on two 14-inch square Excalibur Dehydrator trays.

Dehydrate for 6-8 hours at 104 degrees F. The length of time will depend on how thick your coconut meat is. Check it and dry it to your liking. Don't over-dehydrate, because the more you dry it,the more it will shrink, and you'll be left with only a small amount of bacon.

Options: Replace the smoke flavor with herbs and spices to make different flavors. Try chipotle powder, garlic, dill, or oregano.

I would add here... the liquid from the marinade that will be leftover can be used for another batch of coconut or used otherwise in dressings or other sauces, etc. So please don't throw it out...very little will actually soak in. Make sure to use it up within a few days.

Friday, November 11, 2011

How I Open a Young Coconut

A word or two to begin...Every young coconut (sometimes called baby or Thai coconuts) is different. When my son took these photos of me opening one recently, it happened to have a lot of coconut meat and only about 1 cup of coconut "water". Usually I get thinner coconut meat and more "water", about 2 cups worth. So keep this in mind, especially if you've never opened a young coconut before.

There are many uses for young coconut meat (or "flesh") and it's liquid or "water". I will have a good use for this demo because of the next recipe I intend to share with you to use the meat. The water in it can be used for many of which is green smoothies (of course!). I am just touching the tip of the iceberg with the many things you can do with fresh coconut. And I'm just thinking of the raw uses.

So gather your tools...mine on this day were a cutting board (with cloth underneath to keep it in place), cleaver, mallet, a smaller knife, and a 2 cup measuring cup for the water... and a young coconut.

Ready to go!

I make 4 cuts in a square shape centered around the top "tip". I always leave the plastic wrap packaging on.

When the cuts are sufficient, you should be able to lift off a "cap".

Usually when you get this far, the liquid will start to run out some.

As you can see, my coconut "cap" came off without the meat attached to it.

Here I am cutting a small opening for the liquid to get the liquid out.

It's a thick one this time.

Getting my measuring cup handy, I pour in all the liquid, a total of 1 cup.

After the liquid is out, I make another deep cut with the cleaver to split the whole thing in two.

I'm pulling the two halves apart after another deep cut down the middle. This will make it easier to get the meat out.

This is very thick meat. This is why so little liquid came out.

Using a spoon, scraping the meat out. Sometimes turning it the other way also yields good results. Try both ways.
Ideally, your white coconut meat will separate from the dark brown "skin", but sometimes you have to take it off by hand. The meat will not always come off in this big of a piece, but each time is different.      

After this point you will want to have a bowl nearby to put your coconut pieces in. I would add that a swish in filtered water will get rid of any husk still clinging to the meat and while doing that you can further clean off any dark brown "skin" by removing them by hand.

Now you've got coconut "water" and "meat" ready for your recipes. Things like coconut milk, for starters...not to mention eating the meat fresh, as is, and drinking the liquid straight up...especially good if you've kept them chilled like you should - yum!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Slim Chance: Part 2

And now... continued from Part 1...

Anyone that has known me since childhood, can attest to the fact that I really was a slim child. But that all changed once I hit junior high school. I was heavy in my teen years. I had stretch marks to prove all the weight I gained in high school!

It followed me into married life and until I had my first child, I really hadn't known what it was like to be thin as an adult. My first taste of being "adult" thin was after I had my firstborn child. Apparently I had lost my own weight, while being pregnant. Of course I gained weight overall, but within a week of the birth I was under what I weighed 9 months before!

In fact, to tell you how big I was when I graduated from high school...I weighed the same as when I was 9 months pregnant! That first child weighed 8 pounds, 9 ounces! The weight simply was not a issue for me then...that was in my 20's.  I had only gained 15 pounds in that pregnancy.

After a while, I gained back some of the weight, although never to see my high school numbers again, thankfully. When I was pregnant with my second, I was in my 30's, and this time things were different. I had less energy, didn't eat nearly as well...I gained about 50 pounds! The weight was hard to get rid of this time around. My second child, at birth, weighed 8 pounds even.

We moved to Ghana for two years when this baby was 4 months old. With a food change and walking more (no car), the weight pretty much left ...and easily too. When it's hot out, it's hard to eat too much and water was about the only thing I drank. Easily we had a change of lifestyle that had weight loss built in.

I did get down to a slimmer weight this way... But moving back and the stress associated with an overseas move put about 10 pounds back on. Give it another 3 years and you've got a few pounds to lose.

As I would soon learn, there was a website that I could use to track my calories and exercise. It also had "friend ability" (you could get help from others and be accountable to friends). When I first started, I could hardly believe how many calories I was really eating! I had no idea. It was then I realized...No wonder I was not thinner! I had been fooling myself.

I like seeing all the numbers and the Lose It! website (and phone app) are helpful to many who have lost weight using this food diary. You use any food plan and exercise regimen you like. This is just a tool to keep track of food and exercise, with an emphasis on weight loss. And it's free!

So I continue on this vegan path I've been on, emphasizing smaller portions, more raw and lean foods, and exercise, a little more lately. Using a free website and my rebounder (mini trampoline) at home is working for me to, once again, get slim.

My journey from late July till now has been a good one. In that time I have lost more than 16 pounds and I'm almost to my goal weight. A real dream goal weight. I have never been this light in my entire adult life.

And guess what? Two months after I started actively losing weight, my husband also joined me. Our weight loss goals (number of pounds to lose) are within one pound of each other and he is almost there as well. It's fun to support each other this way! =)

I won't say it's easy, but the work has been good and rewarding to have another chance at being slim!

A Slim Chance: Part 1

I know that for many people reading this, you will relate to the following, in one form or another... about being overweight.

Recently in late July this year, I decided to do something I've never done before. Count calories. The reason being that I felt I wanted to rid myself of that last 20 pounds or so that I was unable to shake just by "eating well."

I remember telling someone within the last year that I really never "had" to count calories, because I didn't feel (at the time) that I had any weight issues. I think that as soon as I said it, I felt a twinge of guilt knowing that I wasn't really at a good weight....meaning that I wasn't particularly heavy, but I knew I wasn't very fit for sure. I realized that I'm not getting any younger and fitness doesn't just happen.

I love dealing with food and that is an area I feel well rounded in health-wise. But I needed to get moving, in a big way. About early July, I decided to walk my husband to work in the mornings for exercise. We moved into town one year ago and he's been walking to and from work everyday since (unless in rains, busy schedule, etc). Since the days are longer in July, it was a nice way to greet the morning and watch the sun rise. Considering he leaves the house at 5:45 am, I think it went well. And we could talk on the way... Every woman needs to talk to her husband.

When it was got too dark and cold to keep doing this in the mornings, in October, I decided to do my workouts at home instead. My husband still walks to work and has for this entire year. Yes, we have snow and ice in the winter here. And his walk to work is 1 and 2/3 mile one way. He's a hard worker on the job too. He is amazing. =)

Stay tuned for Part 2...