Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Herbs de Provence

From southern France, this dried version of Herbs de Provence, uses lavender flowers which was apparently a new addition in the last few decades. It's a very aromatic herbal blend to add to your herb and spice cabinet. We've been using it on our popcorn. It's delicious. You'll need this special blend in the recipe for Tiffani's Raw Herbed Stuffed Mushrooms.

Herbs de Provence


1 Tablespoon dried thyme
1 Tablespoon dried basil
1 Tablespoon dried rosemary, crushed
1 Tablespoon dried tarragon
1 Tablespoon dried savory
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers
1 bay leaf, crushed (optional)

Combine all ingredients. Store in an airtight container away from sunlight. Makes about 1/3 cup.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Some Thoughts: Blessings and Whole Foods Provision

When my family's diet comes into conversation with a stranger, I start thinking about my blessings. One such encounter happened recently while I was with my children and we were doing some shopping for my parents.

On this day we were in a discount grocery store and I was doing the usual checking labels and prices. I was talking with the children as usual and we were about ready to check out when someone commented to us that they were glad to see we were considering the prices and ingredients in our food before we bought our groceries.

They initiated a conversation about healthy foods. This person mentioned gmo foods and other raw food topics, along with some documentaries that I might find interesting. I told them about our vegan diet and this blog. They seemed happy to hear it. I was glad to have connected with a like-minded person.

I write because it's one way to share my recipes as well as to remind me of where I've come. I may forget the blessings otherwise. I write to show the many possibilities that a vegan diet can and does hold for those seeking to find healthy ways to prepare food. I hope that I've helped others find the "road" to a healthier life.

I realize the term "vegan" conjures up different ideas for many people. Really, we eat a whole foods, plant based diet. Since we are what we eat, I prefer to eat in a way that I know will produce health for me and my family. I am also blessed to have a husband and children that have been so easy to please.

I really like to use the whole food approach because there are so many things that work together in foods, still being discovered, that help to heal. You can go and find vitamin this and vitamin that, a specific amino acid here, and isolated mineral this and that there. In whole foods, you get all the synergistic nutrients working together to balance each other the way God intended they should do. He is the Creator after all. He knew what our bodies would need. He is Jehovah Jireh, "the Lord Who provides" and we can trust that is what He will do for us.

I am also reminded of the passage in I Peter 3, from verses 15 and 16: " your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,  keeping a clear conscience..." I know this is speaking of our life in Christ, but I can't help seeing it with new eyes when I consider my conversation with this stranger in the store. People are always ready to listen to someone who is gentle and respectful. This person was just that. I hope that my words were a testimony to this person as well.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

The shadows are coming sooner in the evening now. With the fall in full swing as the leaves turn beautiful colors ... and a little warmer weather right now, to be thankful for before it turns cold again, I am reminded of certain foods. Pumpkin is one of those.

I've always liked the memory I have of eating pumpkin spiced ice cream, in my pre-vegan days. It was at a pumpkin festival I went to in my college friend's hometown, back in the day. This comes pretty close to that memorized flavor. I'm still great friends with her and I still love the flavor of these spices combined with pumpkin. You can find the original recipe here.

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

2 cups non-dairy milk (I used almond/coconut milk)
1 Tablespoon chia seeds (helps thicken)
1 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree (fresh* or canned)
2 Tablespoons maple syrup*
1 frozen ripe banana
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (I used 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg)
pinch salt

Blend well in a good strong blender until creamy. It'll be done in less than a minute. Makes slightly more than 4 cups. Two batches of this recipe fit into my Vitamix container, enough for the whole family to enjoy.

*This could be made raw by using some raw pumpkin pureed with some water for the pumpkin called for in the recipe and by using a raw non-dairy milk. Although maple syrup is not raw, many raw foodies do use it for the flavor on occasion. You may substitute another raw sweetener if you like.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Coconut Vanilla Mango Ice Cream

What do you do when your electric 6 quart ice cream maker doesn't sell in your yard sale? You make ice cream, of course! I was glad it didn't sell, but I hadn't used it for a while. So when I came across some bargain priced organic coconut milk, I knew what I had to do. An extended family gathering made a perfect reason to whip up some of the homemade variety and share. I told my children, only when Papa is home, can we bring it out of the freezer to enjoy some more.

I made a full batch (a full 6 quarts, my capacity for our ice cream maker). I'll share the amounts I used for the entire batch. Adjust as needed for your use. I based my recipe on one I found over at The Nourishing Gourmet (essentially, I made three recipe's worth with added mango).

Coconut Vanilla Mango Ice Cream

10 and 1/2  cups coconut milk
1 cup honey
6 Tablespoons homemade vanilla extract (recipe coming soon!)
2 pounds frozen mango chunks (about 6 cups)

In batches, I blended the ingredients together in my Vitamix and poured it all into the ice cream maker's metal canister and followed the directions for the ice and rock salt to process it into ice cream. It took an 1 hour for it to freeze. Then I put it all into containers and put into the freezer to harden.

We served it the next day. Good stuff. I used ice that wasn't crushed, so it came out the consistency of snow, but it was still delicious and creamy because of the coconut milk. Next time I will just pulse blend the mangoes into the mix to keep it in small pieces instead of pureeing it. I think it would have a bigger mango flavor that way. Also, when adding the vanilla, I'm going to stir it in instead so there are larger vanilla bean flecks.

I think my daughter likes it. =)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Split Pea Soup

 I remember when I first "went" vegetarian back in 1996. I didn't know what to do with recipes like split pea soup. Why? What was I going to do for the ham or bacon flavor? It seems almost laughable now, but it was a real challenge for me at the time. I love split pea soup. Over the years, I've tried other things like "bac'uns" (soy tvp based vegetarian "bacon" bits) - which we loved, and I couldn't see how we'd live without, to liquid hickory smoke. But I've come across something that redefines good split pea soup...Yes, in my opinion.

Two words: chipotle pepper or smoked paprika. Ok, maybe four, but who's counting? If you like a little spicy on the side, use a whole chipotle pepper as a "floater" in the soup, like you would use a whole bay leaf. The only people that are going to get a spicy bite are those actually eating the pepper. My daughter had her bowl minus the chipotle pepper and didn't think it was spicy at all. But my husband, son and I all enjoyed a little spice from breaking up the chipotle pepper in our bowls. So good. Next time, I'm going to put at least two peppers in the soup. If you want it smokey without the spice, try adding smoked paprika powder instead. Now you're talking!

Feel free to puree the soup, but I like to skip this step, leaving it stand just the way it is. My son likes to have it chunky this way. Hey, with fewer dishes, I won't complain. =)

Split Pea Soup

1 pound split peas, sorted and rinsed
3 quarts water (more for thinner soup)
5 carrots, chopped
3 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 - 2 dried whole chipotle peppers (a smoked jalapeno pepper)
1/2 teaspoon ground celery seed
1 teaspoon dried basil or 1 Tablespoon fresh basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
a little freshly ground black pepper (1/4 teaspoon maybe?), to taste
1 potato, diced
1/2 cup other veggies on hand, as desired
1 bay leaf
Start by getting your water and split peas going to a boil on the stove in a good sized kettle (I used my 5 quart "dutch oven" pot). When it has reached a boil, turn down to medium heat. Meanwhile, chop up the carrots, onions, garlic and celery and add to the soup pot as you go. "Float" the dried chipotle pepper in the soup like you would a bay leaf (which would be added here too, if you want to use a bay leaf). Make sure to leave the chipotle pepper whole, unless you want the entire soup pot to be spicy!
Cook at least 30 minutes, test to check if split peas are soft and add more time if needed. If you like pureed split pea soup, here's the place to do it, before adding the herbs. Turn down to a simmer, add the seasonings, salt and ground pepper. Cook another 5 minutes, then turn heat off. Remove and reserve the chipotle pepper (discard the bay leaf, if using). Move off the hot burner and serve. Add bits of the chipotle pepper to the bowls of those that request their soup a bit spicy.
This can easily be done in a crock pot on low for 4-6 hours. Add seasonings in the last 30 minutes.
We enjoyed this with homegrown cherry tomatoes and sliced avocado on the side. Afterward, we rinsed our bowls out for some homemade vegan ice cream for dessert! Oooo...Aaaah! Recipe coming soon.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

My Pantry List

This is in response to a long overdue post I had promised my cousin (I didn't forget!). In thinking about what I stock in my pantry, I realize that it changes with the seasons and various discounts I find. I include what I usually have on hand in fresh produce as well. We try to eat a lot of raw foods, so you'll see that reflected here.

Greens are listed separately because they are so important. I rotate the greens for breakfast smoothies, but I always try to keep salad lettuces on hand for other meals. I don't usually have all these greens at the same time. Right now we are still using kale (Lacinto and Red Curly) and Swiss Chard from our garden.

Following is a general list that you should feel free to adapt to your situation. These are what I thought of today (I will try to update as I think of others). I rarely have all these things at the same time. I buy as I can and try to watch what is in season and on sale. Please see additional notes at the bottom of the post.

Seeds and Nuts
  • Almonds (for homemade almond butter)
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Sesame Seeds & Tahini (sesame seed butter)
  • Walnuts
  • Pecans
  • Hemp
  • Chia
  • Flax (dark and light)
  • Cashews
  • Coconut, shredded (unsweetened)
  • Seeds for Sprouting (alfalfa, mung bean, etc.)
Legumes, Dried (organic preferred when sprouting legumes)
  • Split Peas
  • Lentils
  • Black Beans
  • Pinto Beans
  • Garbanzo Beans (Chick Peas)
  • Carrots
  • Onions (and Green Onions)
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Cabbage
  • Celery
  • Garlic
  • Tomatoes (fresh and sun-dried organic)
  • Bell Peppers 
  • Hot Peppers (fresh and dried)
  • Ginger Root
  • Winter Squash (Butternut, Acorn, Pumpkin)
  • Peas (frozen)
  • Sweet Corn (frozen)
  • Broccoli
  • Beets
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini
  • Romaine
  • Leafy Lettuces
  • Spinach (fresh and frozen)
  • Mixed greens
  • Kale
  • Collard Greens
  • Swiss Chard
  • Dried Teas: Peppermint, Spearmint, Chamomile
  • Fresh Herbs: Parsley, Cilantro, Basil, etc.
  • Lemons
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Berries (frozen)
  • Raisins, organic
  • Dates (Pitted and also Medjool)
  • Avocados
Sea Vegetables (Seaweed)
  • Honey (local)
  • Maple Syrup (local)
  • Green Stevia, powdered (in my Spices list)
Oils and other condiments:
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Nama Shoyu (raw soy sauce) or Coconut Aminos
  • Olive Oil, extra virgin, organic
  • Coconut Oil, extra virgin, organic
  • Mustard
  • Salt (we like "Real Salt")
  • Vegetarian Formula Nutritional Yeast
  • Miso
  • Carob Powder
  • Homemade Vanilla Extract (recipe coming soon)
  • Dried Herbs and Spices
I go to discount stores and find other foods that we can enjoy periodically. Sometimes I'm able to find things that I normally use at a much better price, but selection may be very spotty. I find that if I check in now and then at places I'm going by anyway, I can sometimes get a very good deal. My standard is buying ripe bananas (with brown spots - I use them for smoothies) at a deep discount for only 19 cents per pound at a local grocery store I frequent. Sometimes there are even organic bananas marked down for the same price. Keep an eye out for deals and marked down produce. We buy a lot of it and it pays to check.

Note about wheat/gluten and soy: We have been eating wheat free for about one year now. I don't stock any wheat, rye, spelt, wheat based pastas, or yeast (not wheat, but I wouldn't use it anyway) because of this. I include it here to show what you may need if you use wheat/gluten based products. We also eat very little soy, but do include it occasionally (I never use TVP or soy oil). Because of these two reasons, I never buy pre-made meat analogs, as it seems that 99% of these products contain one or both, wheat and soy.

I try to include recipes on this blog that give you alternatives to pre-packaged (read: marketed to vegetarians) "alternatives" out there. Vegetarian offerings in stores have come a long way in the last 20 years. There is still so much to be desired if you consider the sensitivities and allergies that people have these days. Making things yourself tastes better when it's homemade and it's usually cheaper, but not always. At least you know what's in your food this way!

I hope this list gives you an idea of how I do things at our house. Your list may look very different than mine. Make it yours.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Raw Cauliflower "Popcorn"

Cauliflower went on sale this week and I thought of this idea I'd seen floating around on the internet. It's a good thing I had three heads of cauliflower to work with! We polished this off with some baby carrots and pitted dates for a nice raw supper tonight. Pass the cayenne!

Raw Cauliflower "Popcorn"

1 head cauliflower, washed and cut/broken up into small pieces
olive oil
salt or seasoned salt
nutritional yeast (not raw, but often used in raw cuisine)
other seasonings, as desired

The only directions you need are simple. In a bowl, drizzle the olive oil over the cauliflower. Add in the seasonings and stir well until evenly coated. You can vary this with your choice of seasonings. The only thing that is standard with the recipe is the cauliflower. It was very much like seasoning the usual corn variety of popcorn. Except there is no popping happening. Eat right away or see below for a dehydrated version.

Food dehydrator option: Mix up as usual, making sure not to over season. Put onto dehydrator trays and dry until desired, about 8-10 hours. The flavor will be much more concentrated when you do this as opposed to how it tasted freshly mixed before dehydrating. This option makes it even more crunchy.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Almond "Groundnut" Stew - West African Style

While living in Ghana, we enjoyed many new flavors and tried some new dishes. We often made many of our own stews without meat at home so we could enjoy what was common there. A West African meal, groundnut stew is surprisingly good. We enjoyed this last evening with two friends, one was vegetarian and one was not. They both really liked it.

My version is vegetarian and uses almond butter instead of the typical peanut butter (aka, "groundnuts"). It puts unique flavors together that our American palettes don't understand... until we taste it. Most often served with steamed rice, it is also very good with boiled medium ripe plantains (a type of banana that is cooked). For toppings, you may also put out other fresh chopped tomatoes, green onions, coconut (etc. - like for curry condiments). Slices of avocado or banana, on the side, would be enjoyed by those more sensitive to the spiciness of this dish.

The three flavors, that were often used together in Ghana, are hot pepper, fresh ginger, and garlic. These are the stars in this stew, along with tomatoes, onions and, of course, almond butter (or more commonly, peanut butter). It is my recommendation that you use only "natural" peanut or almond butter without sweeteners or oils or other ingredients. I made my own almond butter just before I added it to the stew last evening (2 cups whole almonds in the food processor, about 10 minutes, makes about 1 cup almond butter).

Almond "Groundnut" Stew

1 Tablespoon oil (I used coconut oil)
2 cups chopped onion (red is more authentic)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon peeled and minced, fresh ginger root

cayenne pepper to taste (or chopped fresh hot pepper, to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (freshly grated, if possible)
1 teaspoon chili power (optional)
2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes (or use canned tomatoes)
1-2 eggplant, chopped (optional)  *called "garden egg" in Ghana
1 green bell pepper, chopped (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
1/2 cup natural peanut butter (or almond butter)

More optional ingredients: (add with tomatoes)
10 whole okra
1/2 cup chopped sweet potato

In a large saucepan, saute onions, garlic and fresh ginger in oil for a few minutes. Add seasonings. After a minute or so, add in tomatoes, optional vegetables, salt and water. Simmer for 20-30 minutes. In a separate bowl, or larger-than-needed heat proof measuring cup (I use a 2 cup glass liquid measuring cup), mix peanut butter (or almond butter) and about another equal part of hot liquid from the stew (I use a ladle to get some from the pot) together with a whisk. When mixed well, add it slowly to the pot and simmer another 15 minutes or so. Adjust salt and seasonings as needed.

This would make a good choice for a crock pot meal and will be very freezer friendly after it has been cooked and cooled.