Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Making Almond Milk

This is Margaret's recipe. I'll post a picture next time I make it.

Makes a little over 1 cup
1/4 cup almonds (you can soak them first 1 hour or overnight)
1 cup water

1 tsp vanilla
1-3 tsp agave nectar

Put the almonds and water in a blender (works best in a high-powered one like the Vitamix).
Blend, blend, blend until as creamy as possible.
Now you can either just add the next two ingredients, blend and drink or use or you can do this next step. (Using it now without filtering retains the protein and the fiber of the skins–but it's a hassle.)

You can filter out the skins by repeatedly pouring through a strainer or using a nut milk bag or cheesecloth. This gets messy and time-consuming, but it gives you a creamier, not-gritty milk. If you choose to filter, you can keep the pulp, dry it and save it as a nut flour (you might have to grind it in a coffee grinder) and add it to baked goods, or throw it in other recipes for added protein.

Other sites for nut milk instructions:


and one use for the left-over almond meal:

Think Yourself Skinny

 I just watched a DVR episode of Dr. Oz (so I have no idea when it aired–probably this week–March 25 maybe) who presented two doctors who were talking about studies they had done with people and how much food they ate.

The gist of it was this: they had their subjects pretend to eat a whole plate of food (they had an empty plate in front of them), "tasting" it in their mouths, "feeling" it on their tongues and savoring every "bite." Being very mindful of the "food." The subjects then were given a plate of real food and were told they could eat as much as they wanted. These subjects ate 40% less than the subjects who hadn't had the "air" meal. They were satiated (felt full) much more quickly.

Sounds like a pretty easy thing to try before each meal–and I did it tonight. I cheated a little...I stuck my spoon in my curry and rice several times and licked the spoon without really eating anything. We'll see over time if this helps me to lose weight more quickly or I feel full with less. Important to not load up the plate or bowl and keep my real portions small and make myself go back for more if I truly am not full yet.

Sounds safe (no side effects except the intended one), cheap (air is still free at my house), and easy (I'm happy to imagine myself eating a slice of carrot cake with vegan cream cheese frosting!).

The ethical question is this...what if want to imagine eating real cream cheese, or brie on crackers or some other thing I know I like the taste of, but no longer eat for allergy or ethical reasons? Hmmm...maybe I can settle that question by pretending it's vegan and only tastes just like the real thing...

This technique reminds me of a story...
One day a poor man who was often hungry – on account of his being poor – walked past a cafe where meat was being grilled. He ate his bread, which was all he could afford, outside the cafe so that he could smell the delicious smell of the meat while he ate. But the owner of the cafe came outside and was angry. He demanded that the poor man pay him for smelling the meat! When it became clear that the poor man could not pay, the cafe owner took him to Goha who had become a judge. After hearing the story, Goha paused and thought. He asked the man how much he wanted to charge for the smell of the meat. “5 piastres,” he replied. So Goha took a 5 piastre coin out of his pocket and span it on the table. When it fell, he asked the cafe owner, “Did you hear the sound the coin made?” When the cafe owner said he had, Goha said, “Take the sound of the coin as payment for the smell of your meat.”

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Miner's Lettuce Salad with Orange-Sesame Vinaigrette

This salad is not in the book, but the vinaigrette dressing is. Miner's Lettuce (AKA Indian Lettuce), is a wild lettuce found here in California and in my back yard. It is totally edible and is even showing up on the menus of shi-shi restaurants around town. (See below for info on where you can buy seeds to grow your own. Mine reseeds itself, although we have reduced its habitat in our yard since we have landscaped!)

Isa's Orange Sesame Vinaigrette couldn't have been easier to make (I used orange juice instead of fresh squeezed oranges and had some lovely fig vinegar instead of red wine vinegar.) I normally don't like vinaigrettes, but this one doesn't have too much vinegar and the orange juice really sweetens it. The toasted sesame oil really makes the flavor pop.

Of course if you can't get your hands on Miner's Lettuce, you can use any kind of lettuce you like!

The salad is my recipe:

Miner's Lettuce Salad

2 cups Miner's Lettuce
2 cups chopped Romaine
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (pine nuts or sliced almonds would be fab)
1/4 cup dried cranberries (dried cherries would be good)

1/2 Recipe of Orange Vinaigrette

Indian Lettuce/Miner's Lettuce
Claytonia perfoliata

You can buy a packet of Miner's Lettuce Seeds from Larner's Seeds in Bolinas, CA for only $5.50. Be sure to check out all the other native plants and flowers they have seeds for!

Interesting Native American salad trivia: Native Americans would eat this green like a salad as we do today. Instead of a fancy dressing from a bottle or recipe from a cookbook, they would just let ants crawl all over their greens. From the Almaden Wildflowers website:

"Lettuce? Yes, you can eat it--raw in salads or boiled like spinach. Early settlers and Indians collected and ate it. It is said that California Indians used to place it by red ant hills to pick up formic acid as a dressing. I would be worried that the ants would eat it. I rarely pass the young plants without pulling off a leaf to nibble on. It tastes a lot like raw spinach to me, not as delicate as lettuce. It has none of the peppery kick of the the somewhat similar garden plant (weed?) nasturtium Tropaeolum majus, which is also in the Purslane family."

Everyday Chickpea-Quinoa Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Appetite for Reduction
Isa's first recipe and my first attempt. Pretty easy and I thought it turned out well. I tried to skimp and not use the whole recipe of dressing, but I think it can take it, the quinoa will absorb it just fine. Remember to make the quinoa the day before and soak the cashews (for the dressing). I didn't see her mention that you need to rinse quinoa first before you cook it otherwise it will be bitter (for those of you new to this grain). Quinoa is wonderful and easy to cook, a whole grain with protein that cooks in 15 minutes–the ease of white rice but so much better for you. I used a quinoa mix that has a couple different colors and both Romaine and Red-leaf lettuce.

I could see adding some garlic, basil or tofu as she suggests, but the tofu might be overkill with protein for me.

Update 2/24/11: I had leftovers of this for lunch today and I added some perfectly ripe avocado. Yes! That was a good idea! Onions have become problematic for my DH (Darling Husband) so I will need to make a lot of these dishes without finely chopped onion (and add it to mine as I eat it) or slice it in big chunks so he can pick it out easily. Final update: We've determined, oddly enough, that quinoa is also a culprit for the DH, so I won't be making this for him again. But I will make it for myself and company.

Did the DD eat it? No. "I don't like garbanzo beans."
Would I make this again? Yes, I love this salad and the dressing. Great for a brunch.
Rating: Salad: 5 out of 5 Forks
Rating: Dressing: 5 out of 5 Forks

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Parsnips, Turnips and Rutabagas...oh my!

Be sure to click to Heirloom Organics for growing and seed buying
information on these root veggies.
They offer large packages for families or small farms.

Also try Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds to buy individual packets of seeds.
Their local outlet (Sonoma County) is:

From Wikipedia:
(Lots more fascinating info on these at Wiki, be sure to look them up!)

The parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) is a root vegetable related to the carrot. Parsnips resemble carrots, but are paler than most carrots and have a sweeter taste, especially when cooked. The buttery, slightly spicy, sweet flavor of cooked mature (often picked after the first frost) parsnips is reminiscent of butterscotch, honey, and subtle cardamom. Like carrots, parsnips are native to Eurasia and have been eaten there since ancient times.

Until the potato arrived from the New World, its place in dishes was occupied by the parsnip and other root vegetables such as the turnip. While parsnips can be eaten raw, they are more commonly served cooked. Parsnips can be boiled, roasted or used in stews, soups and casseroles. In some cases, the parsnip is boiled and the solid portions are removed from the soup or stew, leaving behind a more subtle flavor than the whole root and contributing starch to thicken the dish. Roasted parsnip is considered an essential part of Christmas dinner in some parts of the English-speaking world and frequently features in the traditional Sunday Roast. Parsnips can also be fried or made into crisps.

The turnip or white turnip (Brassica rapa var. rapa) is a root vegetable commonly grown in temperate climates worldwide for its white, bulbous taproot. Small, tender varieties are grown for human consumption, while larger varieties are grown as feed for livestock.

Turnip leaves are sometimes eaten as "turnip greens" ("turnip tops" in the UK), and they resemble mustard greens in flavor. Turnip greens are a common side dish in southeastern US cooking, primarily during late fall and winter. Smaller leaves are preferred; however, any bitter taste of larger leaves can be reduced by pouring off the water from initial boiling and replacing it with fresh water. Varieties specifically grown for the leaves resemble mustard greens more than those grown for the roots, with small or no storage roots. Varieties of B. rapa that have been developed only for use as leaves are called Chinese cabbage. Both leaves and root have a pungent flavor similar to raw cabbage or radishes that becomes mild after cooking.

 The rutabaga, swede (from Swedish turnip), or yellow turnip (Brassica napobrassica, or Brassica napus var. napobrassica, or Brassica napus subsp. rapifera) is a root vegetable that originated as a cross between the cabbage and the turnip. The roots are prepared for food in a variety of ways, and its leaves can also be eaten as a leaf vegetable.

Bistro Broccoli Chowder

This is another easy soup to make. Amazingly, I had the parsnips on hand that the recipe calls for. I've never eaten a parsnip in my life (knowingly). I had bought them to try a raw mock tuna recipe that I never got around to making. I used soy milk instead of almond milk since that's what I had in the fridge. I had dried rosemary in the cupboard, but I walked down to my neighbor's house to pick some fresh for the garnish. It was in flower, so I picked a little of that, too.

I like this soup, although the parsnip flavor does come through–maybe it's an acquired taste. While I don't dislike it, but don't love it, either. I only had 1/3 pound of parsnip and the recipe called for 1/2 pound. Isa even says you can just put in more potato if you don't have parsnip. Since I have a ton of frozen broccoli on hand, I think I'll make a big batch of this and freeze it–just omitting the parsnip. (I guess my parents were not into root vegetables. I did not grow up eating turnips or rutabagas, either.)

I used my hand blender to blend and I think I'll put some in the Vitamix to see what it's like super-blended and creamy. Maybe even try a little soy creamer in it.

See these other posts for info on making your own almond milk (it's so easy) and more about parsnips, turnips and rutabagas.

Did the DD eat it? I didn't even make her try it.
Would I make this again? Yes, I liked it and it's an easy dish to make. I might omit the parsnip in the future. Or I'll develop a taste for it!
Rating: 4 out of 5 Forks (or spoons in this case!)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Curried Chickpeas & Greens

This dish has a lot of ingredients--mostly spices, but is still pretty simple to make. With all these dishes with multiple spices, I have been prepping my stove area with all the chopped veggies and pre-measured spices in little glass bowls so I can just plop things in at the right moment.

I used two cloves of garlic instead of four and no onion, which was called for. I used the two tablespoons of ginger in the recipe and I think it was a too much ginger for me, or I didn't mince it well enough. I just did a rough small chop. I forget how hot ginger can be in quantity!

Did the DD eat it? No, she won't eat chickpeas.
Would I make this again? Yes, I liked it and it's an easy dish to have the ingredients for. I think you could use spinach instead of kale.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Forks (reducing the ginger)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Coconut Oil and Coconut Butter

This is the brand I use from Premier Organics, and I recently tasted Coconut Butter (different than oil). Oh, heaven! You can eat coconut butter like peanut butter. And coconut oil used on your face can soften your skin! (And used in your stir-fries can ramp up the taste!)
This website has some better information: Live Super Foods
Also great info on coconut oil on their site here.
Click to the Artisana/Premier Organics website here.

Update: I bought some coconut butter today at Whole Foods (about $10 a jar) and grabbed a compost-able spoon on the way out the door. While still in my parking spot (oh, I needed a little pick-me-up today, I think the earthquake/tsunami energy was doing a number on my emotional state), I broke the seal, twisted open the lid and scraped off a tiny bit of coconut butter into the spoon. Do you know that phrase "melts in your mouth"? Well, I think it came from eating this. Oh god, this stuff is yummy. I kept very aware that this butter is 180 calories per two tablespoons, and in my mind, I kept it to just one tablespoon. Heavenly flavor, sensuous mouth-feel and love at first bite....melt. I look forward to all the wonderful things it is supposed to do for my health (if I don't overindulge) and I'll write about them when I figure them out. In the meantime, I will go to bed thinking about all the ways I can eat this butter in more creative ways than off a spoon.

If I'm ever marooned on a desert island I hope boxes of peanut butter, Cape Cod potato chips and It's Better Than Sour Cream wash ashore with me. I have now added coconut butter to that list.

Arabian Lentil and Rice Soup

Easy to make, fun to eat! Well, maybe not fun, but certainly tasty. I followed the recipe to the letter although I had to cut it in half since I only had a 1/2 cup of red lentils. I did add another cup of water at the end of the first cook time and the rice was cooked though in only another 5 minutes or so. I added another cup of water at the final end since it was pretty thick.

The taste by itself is great, but my fat-loving taste buds were craving more fat. A dollop of margarine (vegan non-hydrogenated of course) was dancing through my head, but instead, I thought about my new-found fat-friend, coconut oil. Oh yeah! I put a teeny tiny bit in my cup, and ohhhh, yeahhhhh! Lovely.

You could add a tablespoon of coconut oil to this recipe, which would add 120 calories to the total recipe. But if you have added 2 more cups of water, you have 8 servings, not 6, so the total calories per serving would go from 172 calories (original recipe, 8 servings) to 187.5 calories which is still lower than 230 calories!
Original recipe, 6 servings: 230 calories per serving
Add 2 cups water, 8 servings: 172 calories per serving
Add 2 cups water, and 1 tbs coconut oil, 8 servings: 187.5 calories per serving.

Please, someone let me know if my math is wrong....oh, wait, I just realized that I made a half recipe and added two whole cups of water, which would equal 4 cups if you made the whole recipe. That really makes this a low-cal soup. I think if you wanted to keep the thickness, but add the water, just blend part of the soup to get a thick base.

Adjusted math..to how I made it:
Original recipe, 3 servings: 230 calories per serving
Add 2 cups water, 5 servings: 138 calories per serving
Add 2 cups water, and 1 tbs coconut oil, 5 servings: 162 calories per serving.

Did the DD eat it? Hasn't tried it yet. But I can guess no.
Would I make this again? Yes, love it.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Forks

 See a little about coconut oil and coconut butter on this separate post.

Garlicky Mushrooms and Kale

Yes!! Ymmm!! What a way to get your calcium. (Calci-YUM!)

Isa raves about this in her book and I love it too! I used half the garlic (3 cloves instead of 6) and it's still very garlicky. I served it with some roasted red potatoes. East to prep–just some chopping of mushrooms and cutting hard stems off the kale.

I used the amount of oil she called for and I did spray a little extra on the kale once it was in the pan.

I ended up eating most of this. The DH liked it and he got his share, but I finished off the pan. It would serve four as a side, but you'll need a hearty entree, too. Or serve two with another smaller dish like I did (potato).

Did the DD eat it? She tried two little tiny pieces of kale (even though she said she likes kale and she loves garlic.)
Would I make this again? Yes! Very tasty side dish.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Forks

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


From Wikipedia:
According to Hindu legend, paprika is said to have been named after a religious Indian figure named "Rysh Paprike."
Paprika is produced in a number of places including Spain, Hungary, and California. In the United States, paprika is frequently sprinkled on foods as a garnish, but the flavor is more effectively produced by heating it gently in oil.

Spanish Paprika (Pimentón) is available in three versions, mild (Pimentón Dulce), moderately spicy (Pimentón Agridulce), and very spicy (Pimentón Picante.) Some Spanish paprika, including Pimentón de la Vera has a distinct smokey flavor and aroma as it is dried by smoking, typically using oak wood.

Hungary is a major source of paprika and is thus more commonly used. The Netherlands is a major production and distribution source of paprika as well, especially grown in greenhouses.

Paprika can also be used with henna to bring a reddish tint to hair when coloring it. Paprika powder can be added to henna powder when prepared at home.

Capsicum peppers used for paprika are unusually rich in vitamin C, a fact discovered in 1932 by Hungary's 1937 Nobel prize-winner Albert Szent-Györgyi Much of the vitamin C content is retained in paprika, which contains more vitamin C than lemon juice by weight

Paprika is also high in other antioxidants, containing about 10% of the level found in açaí berries. Prevalence of nutrients, however, must be balanced against quantities ingested, which are generally negligible for spices.

Organic Spices is a local distributor in Fremont, CA. They offer gift boxes of organic and natural spices. A cool idea for a loved one who likes to cook! Check out their online store at Spicely. I have no connection with this business. Check here for coupons before ordering.

Potato-Spinach Curry

This is another easy dinner to make. There is some chopping of potatoes, but that's about it. I substituted fresh spinach since I had a whole box of it (I did not get the creamy texture Isa was going for, but that's OK with me) and a can of diced tomatoes instead of fresh plum tomatoes. Use whatcha got, right? I had to omit onions for a family member sensitivity, and reduce the garlic from four cloves (wow!) to a big half clove and I was a little low on ginger. I think all that did reduce the flavor. If it were to make this again, I would add back the onions, make sure I had all the ginger called for and increase garlic to two cloves (and can't see using four!). I also added about another cup of water and I think more could be added. The sauce was thin, so maybe mash up a few of the potatoes if you like a thicker sauce. I used the full two pounds of potatoes called for and that was plenty. Maybe more salt.

I think it will make a good "left-over" meal...great in burritos, mash it up, add water/stock to make it a thick soup, etc.

Update: I had this for lunch for a few days after I first made it and it got better. Maybe a combo of the flavors intensifying as well as the familiarity factor coming into play. (Like when you listen to a new song from a group you love and you don't really like it until you've heard it several times.) I ate it over brown rice pasta and it was wonderful. It's a nice dish on a cold gray day.

Did the DD eat it? Yes, but forced.
Would I make this again? No, it didn't really light up my taste buds. (I liked it more later.)
Rating: 3 out of 5 Forks

Smokey Split Pea Soup

This is an easy recipe to make. Just some chopping of carrots and onion, saute, throw in spices, broth and split peas and simmer. The smoked paprika gives it that smoked ham essence without ending the lives of any piggies. (We like that.)  I didn't have much smoked paprika left so I had to use mostly regular Spanish paprika. I think it's worth it to have some smoked on hand for this soup.

My only complaint, and it could be ME not the recipe, is that the dried split peas took forever to cook. I tried doubling and tripling the simmer time, adding more water and still had hard peas. This is the first time I've ever made split pea soup. (Well, the first time I remember that I've made split pea soup. Apparently by age nearly-50 one starts forgetting what one has done in one's life.) Should I have soaked the peas first? No instruction to do so. And I thought split peas and lentils were both so small you could cook straight from dry without soaking. I'll investigate. The taste is great, though.

One thing I do remember from childhood is that my mom always put some sherry in our Campbell's split pea soup, and yes, it was always good. (Yeah, I even did that as a kid.) I didn't have any sherry in the house today, but I had some sake, which is another sweet wine. It worked. I think any white wine will do.

I garnished the soup with croutons for the picture, but since I am wheat-free these days, I will eat it without them. I used to eat split pea soup with tons of broken up saltines, too. I could see adding some veggie bacon bits for some more of that hammy flavor.

I did a little research and found some info on how to cook split peas. Mine should have cooked, although the salt I added before cooking might have caused my problems. I'll have to experiment next time and not add any salt until after they are done.

One thing I didn't do was rinse the peas and sort out stones first. I'll just have to hope they are fine! Blame it on the Campbell's generation, huh?

Here are some websites that offer interesting info about cooking with split peas:


Did the DD eat it? No. "I don't like pea soup."
Would I make this again? Yes, if only to see if I can get the peas to cook through.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Forks

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Black Bean Red Velvet Mole & Ginger Mashed Sweet Potatoes & Apples

Legend has it that mole was invented when nuns in a poor convent went into a panic when the archbishop was going to visit. They put together what little they had ... chili peppers, chocolate, nuts, day old bread ... and then they killed their old turkey and smothered him in this sauce.

I promise you this is a turkey-safe version using black beans instead.

I've never made a mole before and it was fun to add so many different and seemingly unrelated ingredients into one recipe–chocolate, smoked paprika, chili powder, tomatoes, black beans, raisins, anise seed and more! The taste is complicated, but the cooking is not. Just throw it all in the pot and cook it, basically! (I made my version without onion or garlic since we are having some sensitivities at our house.) We tried it over quinoa (good) brown rice (good), and then I went all out and made the sweet potato dish that Isa recommends for this mole, and she's right. The sweetness of the mole really, really works well with the naturally sweet sweet potatoes. The Ginger Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Apples is good all by itself. I resisted putting a pat of vegan margarine on top to keep the fat content low, but if you aren't watching calories, I say go for it.

What could be better on a cold winter night...chocolate, protein and a root vegetable?

I think a nice Mexican beer would go well with this. I've been drinking the gluten-free beers made from sorghum, and I think that's a nice complement, too.

Oh, and I bought a bike on Craigslist yesterday. The plan (if it's not raining) is to ride for an hour three days a week. It's a "comfort" type of bike where you can sit upright with handlebars that sweep back and grips that don't aggravate the arthritis in my thumbs. Can't wait to go cruisin'!
Did the DD eat it? No.
Would I make this again? Yes, I love the beans and the yams are even tastier the next day.
Rating: Mole: 4 out of 5 Forks
Rating: Yams: 4 out of 5 Forks