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Sunshine Smoothie

When life hands you red papaya when you were expecting green you can either get mad or make a smoothie.  I intended to buy a green papaya the other day.  I was really looking forward to making Som Tum and I went to start that yesterday and found that the green papaya I’ve been dreaming of eating was a red one.  Sucky red papaya.  I am not a big fan.  To me, red papaya tastes like a weird overripe melon.  There’s a musky factor that turns me off and I can’t eat it on it’s own.  Being vegan and someone who hates to waste, I couldn’t toss the slightly offensive red flesh so I got rid of the seeds and skin and set the flesh in a bowl in the fridge so I could think about it.  Enter the ever faithful smoothie!  We love smoothies and make them pretty much daily.  Can I tell you how many combinations of fruits and veggies I've blitzed to smooth perfection in the Vitamix.... well, enough to know a few tricks!  One of my favorite smoothie all stars is the amazing pineapple.  Pineapple masks a ton of flavors and I knew that it would need to be the superstar here with my challenging red papaya.  My rule of thumb is about 1 piece of fruit and 2 veg per serving.  That’s what I did here and I loved it!  Kids each downed 2 servings with breakfast as well, so I can tell you honestly that this is a good combo!  The taste is remarkably mellow and the pineapple and banana stand out.  It's nice that you can get in the fiber and nutrients from the papaya, carrot and orange as well.  Flaxseed is a must add to smoothies because of the omega 3 benefit.  You won't taste it, but you will be the better for it.  Flaxseed also works to firm up a loose smoothie, so if you need to stretch servings it is a good thing to add.  My caution to you is not to add more than a few tablespoons per blender full or you will make a bitter concotion.  So, the long and short of it is that you're in for a colorful, flavorful smoothie that is smooth and creamy texture without needing dairy or ice.  It works and it's good for you! Sunshine Smoothie (makes about 6 cups)Sunshine Smoothie ½ red papaya 2 cups pineapple 2 bananas 2 oranges, peeled 4 carrots 2 Tbsp golden flaxseed Put everything in the Vitamix or other high powered blender and whiz until smooth.  Add a bit of water if you need to thin it out or if you need to stretch for more servings.  Pour and enjoy! everything in the blender

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Pot Pie Perfection

Chicken pot pie was one of my favorite meals as a child.  My father made a tasty version… so did Stouffers!  We had both from time to time.  I remember the smell that filled the house when pot pie was on the dinner menu.  I remember being served individual size pies in all of their steaming glory and the sound that my fork made as I broke into the crust.  These memories were enough to make me want to share pot pie with my family.  I also like the idea of a kid friendly family meal that can use basically any veg I have on hand.  The sauce is what seals the deal on the kid friendly factor.  My kids like a creamy sauce, so I improvised and employed coconut crème concentrate.  You can use coconut milk or any milk of your choice.  Since we’re dairy free its coconut, almond or cashew milk for us when we’re looking for creamy!  Recreating pot pie with my twists means that we’re not using chicken.  We’re not talking about using fancy fake meats here either.  You can if you want, but I don’t think you’ll miss anything if you don’t.  If you want a toothsome bite try adding a few cups of shitake mushrooms that you’re just going to chunk rather than dice. Good gluten free crust isn’t a hard thing.  Actually, gluten free vegan crust is a real cinch.  Not what you’d expect since gluten crusts are a royal pain in the you know what!  But I wouldn’t lie to you.  The crust I made tonight incorporates teff flour for a hearty, almost whole wheat flavor.  What you’re going to get when all is said and done is a nice crust that is a bit flaky.  It’s a crust that will crack when you whack it with the back of your fork and that’s a satisfying thing.  Almost more satifying is the simple fact that this crust will take you about 2 minutes to pull together.  Yupper! Drop me a comment when you try this for yourself.  Remember to adapt the veg to your liking.  If you feed meat eaters you can always add in a cup of diced whatever once the sauce is done.  Mushrooms, quorn or beans would also be fine add-ins. Vegetables 1 onion, diced, about 1 cup 4 carrots, diced, about 2 cups 1 bunch organic celery, sliced or diced, about 2 cups 1 tsp olive oil 3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced ½ lb corn kernels, fresh or frozen ½ lb green peas, fresh or frozen (not canned… canned peas are criminal!) Sauce 4 cups water, hot 4 Tbsp broth powder ½ cup tapioca starch in ½ cup water 4 Tbsp coconut milk (or coconut crème if possible) Several grinds of pepper Crust 1 cup GF flour blend (I use Bob’s Red Mill but you can use your favorite) ½ cup teff flour ½ tsp xanthan gum 3 Tbsp vegan margarine (like Earth Balance) ½ cup cold water Turn on your oven and get the thing headed to 425 degrees. We’re going to start by prepping our veg, so dice the onion, carrots and celery and mince the garlic.  Heat your olive oil over medium high heat in a large sauté pan.  Throw in the onion, carrots and celery and stir them up to coat with the oil.  It’s important to move the veg around every few minutes so nothing burns.  We’re looking for the onions to soften, lose their edgy bite and gain a hint of golden color.  The celery and carrots are in the pot to soften a hint but not turn to mush.  After 6 minutes stir in your garlic and let it sauté with the other veg.  Top to bottom on this step, 8 minutes.  Spoon the cooked veg into a bowl and set aside. Okay, add 4 cups of hot water to the sauté pan that the veg came out of.  Using a wooden spoon, scrape the bottom of the pan to incorporate any browned bits.  Sprinkle your broth powder over the water and whisk it in until it’s well incorporated.  If you have homemade vegetable stock or another prepared broth you can substitute it.  While the broth is coming up to a simmer let’s prep our thickener.  Put the tapioca starch into a small bowl and pour ½ cup of cold water over it.  Stir or whisk until the starch dissolves in the water.  Set this bowl aside until your broth is boiling.  When you see your broth boiling go ahead and grab your whisk and begin to whisk the broth as you pour in the starch water.  The broth will sauce with lots of vegthicken quickly.  As soon as it does take it off the heat.  Tapioca starch is great, but it will lose its hold if you boil it for too long.  Add the coconut milk and stir it into the hot mixture.  If you have coconut crème concentrate I recommend using it because you’ll end up with a creamier sauce. Take those cooked veg that you set aside earlier and mix them into the sauce.  Last step in the prep is to toss in the corn and peas and stir to combine. Time to work on the crust.  A stand mixer makes quick work of this step, so let’s dust yours off and bang it out!  Gluten free crust is much easier to manage than gluten crusts, in my opinion.  You’ll see why in a minute… I mean that!  Add all of the ingredients into the mixer, hook in your paddle attachment and lock everything down.  Set your paddle on low speed for a few seconds to work in the Earth balance and then increase the speed for about a minute.  You’ll watch the mixture change from something dry to something crumbly and then something that looks like a regular old dough.  If whats in your mixer is too dry add a tablespoon of water and mix again.  If your mixture is too wet add a tablespoon or two of teff.  Your dough won’t be sticky or dry… it will be perfect!finished teff dough Lightly flour your work surface with rice flour or teff flour.  Roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thick.  If you are making one big pot pie then roll the dough out to your pan dimensions.  If you are making individual pot pies just cut the dough into circles to fit your ramekins. I made individual pot pies in 1 cup ramekins.  If you’re following my lead go on and spoon about ¾ cup of veg/sauce into each ramekin and top with a round of dough.  You’re going to bake the little guys off for about 18 minutes or until the crust is firm.  I’ll say that I didn’t notice any browning, but the dough is dark due to the teff.  Give the tops a tap and when they’re firm and sound dry you’re ready to take them out.  Making one big pan?  Okay.  Spoon the filling into the baking dish of your choice and top it with the dough.  This guy will go into the oven for anywhere between 25 and 40 minutes depending on the size of your baking dish.  Again, your rule of thumb for when its done is going to be tapping it. ready for the ovenhot out of the oven Whatever size you make, let it cool for a few minutes before serving. If you have leftover dough you can make empanadas or turnovers or just bake extra rounds and eat them with hummus  or use them as a pizza crust base. extra dough

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Garlic Lentil Immune Boost Soup

Seems like everyone and their mother has the sniffles and sneezes these January days.  Truth be told, I woke up this morning knowing that my body is fighting off some little germ.  I eat really minimally when I'm not feeling 100%.  I like to give my body the opportunity to focus energy on healing and strengthening my immune system rather than on digesting.  Ever wonder why we lose our hunger when we're sick?  It's a signal to hunker down and rest so we can regain balance.  Dr. Joel Fuhrman goes into this topic in his book Fasting and Eating for Health.  Fasting is really misunderstood in the Western world.  As with all of Dr. Fuhrman's books, I think that this should be required reading for anyone interested in healthy living and anyone interested in researching ways to approach balanced health without  having to rely on drugs and remedies that attempt to hide the symptoms of disease rather than promoting resolution at the source of the disease. Right, enough of that for the minute.  I really want to share this soup recipe with you because it is an example of something that we can do to support our health in a simple nutrient dense way.  Whats even better is that this is a hearty, earthy soup that we can serve anytime. Why these ingredients?  Well, what I've learned over the years is that there are some super immune boosting foods that are truly helpful when we're battling the old cold.  Most of the players in this pot should be familiar to you.  The newbie is likely astragalus or milk vetch.  The root is the part of this plant that we're interested in using.  It is popular in Chinese herbal medicine and is known for its ability to stimulate immune function and fighting infection... respiratory infection in particular (the main reason I'm using it in this pot of soup.)  I also use it to make tea and sprinkle on things that can take a little earthy dust.  On it's own, you'll find it to be a pale greenish powder that is a little bit sweet and a little bit earthy.  I encourage you to research herbs before you use them.  If in doubt about herb safety for you and your health situation, please connect with an herbalist or practitioner who can advise you specifically. Garlic and onion are also known for stimulating white blood cells and boosting immune function.  The reason I went a bit wild with the garlic in this soup is because of the immune focus.  If you're not fighting off a sickness and want to cut back on the garlic you can adjust to suit your tastes.  I'll say that my 2 little boys each had 2nd helpings of this garlicky version... so you should know that the garlic isn't at all offensive or sharp. Millet is rich in vitamin E.  The carrots, squash and kale bring beta carotene goodness.  Lentils add zinc.  All in all, we're talking about a pot of good for us goodness here. Immune boosting Garlic Lentil Soup Garlic Lentil Soup 1 onion, diced 6 cloves of garlic, rough chopped 2 celery stalks, finely chopped 3 carrots, rough chunked 1 lb butternut squash, diced (if you can’t get fresh squash try frozen!) 1 Tbsp astragalus (mountain rose herbs is where I get my bulk herbs) 4 leaves kale 1/2 cup brown lentils ½ cup millet 3 cups cooked white beans (homemade or 1 large can, rinsed and drained) 8 cups water or homemade stock 1 tablespoon miso (I like Golden Millet Miso) salt and pepper to taste What you need: stock pot; Vitamix, food processor, stick blender or elbow grease! Let’s start by get our foundational flavors in the pot.  Saute your onion, garlic and celery in a bit of the broth until tender and fragrant. While that’s working for you, add the carrots, squash, astragalus powder and kale to your vitamix or food processor with a few cups of broth.  Whiz these guys until smooth.  If you don’t have a machine that can do this using raw veg my recommendation is to cook the carrots, squash and kale in the broth in a separate pot until they are soft, then puree with a stick blender of mash well with a fork or potato masher and then add to the onions, garlic and celery. Once the veggies are pureed we’re going to add them to the onions, garlic and celery.  The puree is an earthy color that is a greeny orangey brown.  It’s not going to win a beauty pagent, but it is going to taste good! Let’s stir in the lentils, millet, beans and remaining stock.  Once everyone is in the pot, cover and simmer for about 35 minutes until the lentils are cooked but not mushy. To finish things up, you’re going to take about ½ cup of the hot soup out of the pot and put it in a small bowl with the miso paste.  Mix the paste into the soup until it is well incorporated, then add the miso and soup mixture into the soup pot and stir to combine.  Before serving, taste the soup and adjust seasoning as needed with a bit of salt and pepper.

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Teff Pancakes

A thing of beautyGood gluten free vegan pancakes are elusive.  It’s no lie.  There have been many Sunday mornings when I’ve thought that my griddle full of golden circles would be more than impressive… would be perfect and tender and scrumptious and no one at the table would give me the look that I’ve come to expect from this sort of experiment.  Perhaps you know the look. It’s a cross between sorrow and sympathy with a solid dash of compassion thrown in.  Accompanying the look is the pity nod and the whole thing usually comes together with a slight “ummm” sound while one of the first few bites is being actively chewed.  It’s not that most gluten free pancakes are horrible it’s that they’re different.  And different, despite what your momma told you, ain’t always good!  Something as iconic as a full stack of pancakes drizzled in New England Maple Syrup is a challenge to pull off in GFV form.  But I think I’ve finally got a contender!  Full StackFluffy texture with air pockets Teff Pancakes (makes 36 5 inch pancakes) 2 cups gluten free flour blend (try Bob’s Red Mill or use your own blend) ¾ cup white rice flour ¾ cup teff flour (Bob’s Red Mill) 2 Tbsp ground flaxseed 2 Tbsp baking powder 2 Tbsp lemon juice or 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar 5 cups coconut milk 1 cup coconut milk, almond milk or water (this will be used to thin the batter if needed) 10 pitted medool dates Getting started: If you’re using a griddle, start preheating it now.  If you’re using a sauté pan you will put it on the heat after we’ve made the batter. Making the batter: Put all of the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and stir well to combine. Put your wet ingredients into a bowl and set aside for a few minutes.  The lemon juice or vinegar will slightly curdle the coconut milk.  We want this to happen.  We want the bit of sour that will be reminiscent of buttermilk.  We want the tenderness that the acid will impart when the batter is mixed.  Don’t be afraid… Take your pitted dates and about 1 cup of the coconut milk and whiz in your Vitamix or other blender until the date is blitzed and no bits remain.  If you don’t have a blender that is capable of doing this you can try using a food processor and pulverizing the dates with some of the dry mix.  If you have neither piece of equipment you can grind the date into a paste using a mortar and pestle or resort to ¼ cup of honey or sugar instead of the dates. Pour the 1 cup of coconut date milk back into your dry ingredient bowl.  With a wooden spoon, stir the milk and flours together.  Add one cup of coconut milk at a time now, stirring and combining the wet and dry ingredients.  If your mix is too thick when you’ve added the 5th cup of coconut milk consider adding ½ cup of the extra liquid of your choice until you get a thickish batter that’s stiff but not stiff enough to hold up your wooden spoon. Making magic: Make sure that your cooking surface is hot and well oiled.  Because I used coconut milk in this recipe I decided to use coconut oil on my griddle.  You should use your favorite mild oil. Ladle out 1/3 cup portions of batter onto your hot griddle and wait for bbubblesubbles to form, burst and leave open holes in the top surface, usually about 2-3 minutes.  The edges of your pancakes will start to look a little dry.  Flip and cook on the other side for another 2 minutes.  Your pancakes should be a dark golden brown because of the teff.  These are not as light as traditional wheat pancakes.  When you test one you should notice a fluffy center that is not gluey or mushy.  If yours is either you haven’t cooked the pancake long enough or you added too much liquid.  on the hot top Serve: Serve hot with maple syrup and fresh berries. Note:  This makes a large batch of pancakes.  3 of us were eating these pancakes and we each had 2 pancakes along with a fruit salad and sunshine smoothie shot (carrot, orange, pineapple whizzed in Vitamix).  We had 30 leftover.  I froze 12 and put the remaining 18 in the fridge.  The ones we had as leftovers from the fridge were a bit dry compared to when they were fresh.  For the best flavor and texture consider making a half batch so you are eating the majority of these fresh.  While leftover pancakes are uber convenient they were not as good as the fresh hot goodies!

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Nourishment

I mused a litle last night before bed... if you are interested in the ramblings of my mind, read on.  If not, come back later! I’ve had days where eating takes a backseat.  Today was one of those days.  It wasn’t the craziest of days.  It wasn’t structured.  It wasn’t non-stop and it wasn’t unpleasant.  But it was one of those days that got away from me.  Sitting down tonight, my kids tucked in bed, I realized that I didn’t eat today.  I had tea and I had water and I chewed a piece of gum.  My stomach hasn’t growled and my body isn’t weak and I’m not even cranky.  I made breakfast, lunch and dinner for my little darlings.  So there were plates and bowls of fresh fruits and greens and veggies and a lunch box packed and unpacked and even a dinner cooked in a bit of a rush when we came home from a school concert.  My kitchen routine wasn’t anything unusual today.  That said, food isn’t what sustained me.  This morning my boys climbed into bed for a cuddle and a story.  I should have known that the day was blessed right then, but I didn’t see it.  My soul was fed before my feet touched the ground.  But I was consumed with getting everyone up and dressed and fed and off to school on time. Once my oldest was safely on the bus, the little guy and I returned home and cleared some dishes and sang and danced in the kitchen as we worked.  We drank hot tea and had fun squeezing juice from our yellowest lemon not into our tea cups but onto our tongues… drip by puckery drip… and we grimaced and squinted and giggled while we teased each other during this little contest.  How did I miss the sun shining on my soul in those moments? We took some time to watch monster trucks on tv… because it’s a fun thing to do with a 4 year old boy.  Those behemoths slam around incredible tracks with leaps and turns that defy gravity until they don’t and that’s when the crowd goes completely wild.  So we were inspired and pulled out the many bins of collected mini metal trucks and we crushed matchbox cars and bumped over every obstacle we could find.  We messed up a square of space and made vrooming sounds and revved our engines and leapt through the air like a morph of transformers and crazy metal head ballerinas.  Perhaps I neglected to mention that my 4 year old is addicted to rock music which he plays loud and proud from whatever radio station his bitty fingers can tune in on his radio cube.  He rolls like that and it’s cool.  And I see now that 4 year old creativity with monster trucks set to a  rock and roll soundtrack were my mid morning snack. Now, my little guy wanted to take a bath mid day and I had no reason to stop him.  Sometimes it’s a good thing to encourage water play because it means that they get clean without a battle later in the day.  But I usually don’t say yes to this kind of thing because some commitment or another is looming.  I got well and truly splashed after a bit of overzealous fun with a toy boat’s antics so I took the opportunity to dump a bit more water on my head to freshen up my style… yup… I roll like that sometimes.  Now you know.  What should be more interesting than that though it what happened next.  My little fella wanted to get dried off so he could blow dry my hair because he knew he drenched me!  I dried him off, helped him get dressed and then sat down on the bathroom floor with my brush and blow dryer and let the guy go to town.  I couldn’t have guessed how incredibly gentle this experience was.  I figured that I was in for some real fun with head jerking and hair pulling and that I was going to be doing a few minutes of my tried and true grin and bear it mommy face.  But that is not at all what happened.  He brushed my hair so gently and sort of twisted and twirled sections of it in a charming way for a few minutes while wafting warm air my way from the dryer.  It didn’t last long… things seldom do when you’re working with someone who is 4.  But he did what he wanted to do, he enchanted me with his caring and tenderness and then sat in my lap while I finished drying my hair.  What a treat to spend time in the presence of such loving kindness.  What a gift my child gave me in return for a few moments of bathtub abandon.  It makes me mourn for missed moments and time that I’ve wasted to the “no” and “not right now.” We went outside to shovel a bit of a path on the back steps a little later in the afternoon and I heard my sweet boy say “it’s like walking on sparkles mommy.”  And I took the time to look around and thought how incredibly beautiful the snow is, even though I am not a snow person.  So I walked on a carpet of diamonds with a prince and we built a castle… then we escaped on colorful sea shells and slid away to the end of the earth… at least that’s what I imagined with my 4 year old as we shoveled and shaped a grand pile of snow and then took a break on our sledding hill.  I walked on a carpet of diamonds with a prince.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! Perhaps the best moment of my day was when my children agreed to take my hands, one on each side of me, as we walked upstairs on their journey to bed.  The feeling of warmth, trust and comfort that comes from holding a child’s hand shouldn’t be taken for granted.  My boys got cozy and warm in their flannel jams before we made a cocoon of comforters on the bed where we read stories together nightly.  Their heads full of adventure and characters, the perfect fodder for dreams, I took my time tucking each one in.  As they are winding down they talk about their best moments from the day and what they plan for their tomorrows.  I listen to them talk about their dreams and I hold their hands and open my heart as they pray.  I wrap them up in warm blankets and seal their eyes with kisses and love.  Sometimes I get the ultimate reward from that unexpected hand that touches my cheek for a moment or the kiss planted softly on my hand as I pull up the covers.  “Stay another minute” isn’t something I dread, it’s my treasure because I know that there will come a time when they won’t want me this way anymore.     So on a day like today when I’ve fasted for no good reason, I am that much more aware that what sustains and nourishes is love, laughter and kindness.  Fed by moments of connection, I am going to bed with a full and satisfied soul knowing that on days like today, joy is my spice, creativity my flavor and love my super star nutrient.  As someone who often places a focus on food because I value the health benefits, I am feeling humbled.  I think it’s worth adding love, joy and creative connections to the nutrient list… what is more nourishing for the world than a soul well fed?  Maybe its moral density or spiritual density instead of nutrient density… whatever it is, it’s as critical to healthy living as greens and beans are for a healthy body!  I think it’s about living with intensity and intention rather than going with the grain.  But then I guess I go against the grain.  Maybe you should too.

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Vanilla Chai Yummies

I had a long day yesterday that involved sitting in a conference room for a meeting from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.  The mere thought of the afternoon weighed like an elephant on my shoulders by the time 11 o’clock rolled around.  What eventually made the afternoon bearable was the Raw Revolution bar I nibbled on from time to time.  Chocolate Raspberry.  Let me repeat… Chocolate Raspberry.  And now imagine a little slab of raw goodness that is the color of a naughty chocolate bar with the flavor of super ripe raspberries and sinful chocolate ganache.  Normally I make snacks like this at home with my kids.  They are healthy, quick and much cheaper than commercial bars.  I haven’t made chocolate raspberry before, but we routinely make one with dates, cashews and a berry blend (my little guy calls them “Sweet Fruit Snowballs”).  A friend of mine was writing on facebook about enjoying a cup of homemade chai tea.  How I love chai!  What’s not to love, really?!  Got me thinking about making a raw bar or raw ball using chai spices.  I started imagining a blond ball speckled with fragrant Indian spices and studded with coconut.  Knowing me, as some of you do, you are aware that I am an info junkie.  So I started checking out some of my favorite web resources and I came across a few ideas for raw vegan macaroons and even one with a chai spice blend.  I played around with my food processor and my spice grinder and came up with something that is share worthy.  What I ended up with are perfectly sized nuggets of spiced coconutty perfection.  They are not flecked with spice as I envisioned because I started off with fine ground spices, but they are well spiced and studded with coconut!  The spice flavors definitely developed over night, so my suggestion is to make them one day and eat them the next if you can stand to keep your mitts off that long! Right, here you go!  I am also posting my recipe for Sweet Fruit Snowballs since it’s a perennial favorite in my household!  Enjoy. [caption id="attachment_137" align="alignright" width="300" caption="little mound of spiced coconut goodness"][/caption] Vanilla Chai Yummies (makes 30 tablespoon size balls plus a few teaspoons for tasting along the way) 12 pitted dates 2 cups shredded coconut, unsweetened 1 cup raw cashews 4 Tbsp agave nectar, maple syrup or honey 4 Tbsp melted coconut crème or coconut oil * 3 tsp spice blend (see recipe below) 1 tsp flaxseed meal *If you are keeping you snack raw go ahead and melt the coconut creme or coconut oil over a cup of hot water.  You put the product into a glass dish and let the dish rest in the water without getting the water in the glass dish, of course.  Stir, stir, stir and then remove.  It's about gently warming the raw product while keeping it raw.  If you aren't concerned about the rawness of the coconut creme or coconut oil then you can zap it in the microwave for a few seconds or melt over a double boiler. Blend all ingredients in a food processor until the mixture is evenly moist and will hold together when you press it.  Use a small ice cream scooper to make even tablespoon size balls or use a spoon to portion and then roll in the palm of your hands.  You can roll these guys in a little extra shredded coconut if they are sticky.  I didn’t need to do that.  Eat or chill and eat… yum!            Chai Spice Blend (Makes about ½ cup)   2 Tbsp of each of the following spices, ground:  Ginger, Cardamom, Cinnamon 2 tsp of each of the following, ground: Cloves, Nutmeg, Allspice, Black pepper and Vanilla Powder Mix the ingredients until combined.  Store in a tin or a spice jar.      Sweet Fruit Snowballs (makes 36 teaspoon size balls) 12 pitted dates 1/2 cup goji berries 1 cup raw cashews 1/4 cup fresh cranberries 1 tsp agave nectar, maple syrup or honey 1 tsp cinnamon 1 tsp flaxseed meal 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, for rolling -- you may have coconut leftover depending on how much you press into the balls. Blend all ingredients in a food processor until a smooth-ish paste forms.  Roll tsp amounts of the fruit-nut mixture in the coconut.  Eat.

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Crunchy Carrot Salad

Lunch today was something wonderful. Sweet, sour, crunchy, chewy, spicy, mild, creamy and crispy ALL on one plate! How, you ask, is it possible to have such variety? As with most things I make, this was quick and easy… start to finish, we're talking about 10 minutes. I think that a raw food focus makes quick, healthy eating very accessible. Cooked foods are great too! As with everything in life, there's a need for balance. For me, that means balancing raw foods with cooked foods. That's how I can make a healthy 10 minute lunch with such great texture and flavor. These were the components of my lunch: Carrot = Sweet and mild Rice Vinegar and ginger = sour and spicy Fried tofu = chewy, creamy and crispy Chia and Millet = crunchy Tomato Coconut Sauce = mild, creamy and spicy Let's talk about balance. When we're eating something as rich as crispy fried tofu we definitely need something fresh and light to balance things out. In comes the humble carrot. Who doesn't love a carrot?! I often shred or grate carrots and make quick slaws for snack for my kids. My lunch salad took on a new twist and it's worth sharing! Raw chia is a favorite salad topper of mine, but the raw millet is something new. I've used millet as a component of date bars before. I've cooked millet and made killer pilaf before. The revelation today is that a bit of raw millet is a fantastic crunchy addition to salad and slaws and likely many other things! Crunchy Carrot Salad (serves 1) 1 large organic carrot, grated 1 tsp grated ginger – from about ½ inch piece of fresh ginger 1 tsp raw chia seed 2 tsp millet, uncooked Splash of rice vinegar Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss lightly to combine. Raw foods make up 80-90% of what I eat. Focusing on living foods means that things stay simple and fresh. (There is a summary of the basics of what I eat on my About Me page if you're curious.) Eating with a raw, nutrient dense focus gives me a bit of freedom when it comes to the occasional naughty fried food. Crispy fried tofu ends up on my plate maybe once every few months. It's a guilty pleasure, but a tasty one! Tofu isn't something I use much anymore because I don't like eating soy products. There was a time, as a young vegetarian, when I was eating tofu, drinking soymilk, steaming edamame and crunching on soy crisps daily. It was just too much. I wasn't terribly conscious of my soy dependence until I had a few allergic reactions to it. Giving it all up was hard to do, but it made sense and certainly made me feel better! I've been able to phase some soy back into my diet, but it is pretty rare now. When I buy a block of tofu I will use it a few ways during the week that it's in my fridge. Firm tofu freezes well and actually improves texturally for things like baking after it's been frozen. So I find that if I don't use up a block I freeze it and pull it out when I'm in the mood for baked tofu. The block I bought this week has been used in several dishes: I used small cubes of fried tofu on a kale salad, then diced uncooked tofu as part of my egg roll filling, and today the remainder of the block ended up as fried tofu. [caption id="attachment_126" align="alignright" width="300" caption="crispy outside, creamy inside"][/caption] (serves 1) 3 slices of tofu, about ½ inch thick ¼ inch olive oil in a small saucepan Slice and dry the tofu. Heat your oil in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Fry one slice of tofu at a time, turning after a few minutes so that both sides become crisp and golden. Remove the fried tofu and drain on a towel or rack. Repeat with the remaining pieces. Serve hot. Tomato Coconut Sauce (leftover) --- flavor is amazing because it's been sitting in the fridge for a few days. The sauce is thick, creamy and fragrant. I reheated it to serve as a dipping sauce for the crispy tofu. YUM!

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Baked Egg Rolls

Egg rolls are one of those things that are missed by the gluten free.  I haven’t tried making my own gluten free pasta type wrapper, but that may be coming in the near future!  Tonight I went back to my old friends, the rice paper wrappers.  We’ve had good times and bad, me and the rice paper wrapper.   Not sure if you were with me earlier in the week for my crash and burn experiment with steaming rice wrapped bundles, but it wasn’t pretty.  There was an incident with frying rice paper wrapped spring rolls last year and that was exceptionally ugly.  Many, many hours of soaking and scraping were required to reclaim my favorite sauté pan! Needless to say, tonight we fared much better because I have photos and am ready to share the recipe with you.  Know that anything I share here is something I think worth sharing.  I wouldn’t write it out if I didn’t think you should try it.  I’m not that kind of cruel!  Now, I’ll say that these guys, like most gluten free versions of things, aren’t exactly like the originals.  But at this point in my life, I don’t consider different a bad thing.   If things work out for you like they did for me, you will have gluten free rice paper wrapped egg rolls that stay crispy for about 30 minutes before going a bit limp.  Make everything else you need to make before you start these guys.  Have the table set.  Have the salad on the table and the drinks poured.  Then and only then start these guys. I am all about setting you up for success!
Because the other members of my family don’t have gluten issues I still use some mainstream products.  Here I figured I’d share my hybrid meal strategy for egg rolls which is a bit complicated because I did a gluten free vegan version, a regular vegan version and a regular non vegan version.  Take that!  (And know that if you have an amazing hybrid family of eaters as I do that you can do it with minimal extra effort as long as you feed your sense of humor every day!)

Baked Egg rolls – 2 ways
1 medium onion, diced – about 1 cup
3 baby bok choy, cleaned and sliced – about 4 cups
5 or 6  leaves of kale, cleaned and sliced, thick stems removed – about 2 cups
A splash of Braggs liquid amino acids (substitute for soy sauce)
A splash of rice vinegar
A twist of pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp grated ginger (from a piece of ginger about 1 inch long)
2 large carrots, grated – about 1 cup
¼ cup cilantro leaves, minced
¾ block of tofu, sliced into strips and diced (optional)

12 or 24 egg roll wrappers (not gluten free)
12 or 24 rice paper wrappers (gluten free)

In a large saucepan, saute all filling ingredients except for the carrots and cilantro for 10 minutes until wilted, but still a bit firm.  Remove from heat and mix in the carrots and cilantro.  If you are adding in the tofu, go ahead and do it now or hold it aside and add it to the rolls as you make them.  Let cool.

Turn on the oven to 450 while the filling is cooling.  We want the oven good and hot!
Once the filling is cool you can begin stuffing the egg rolls.  If you are serving people who are not gluten restricted go ahead and work with the regular egg roll wrappers.  You can find these in the refrigerated section of the market, usually in the produce department (though I don’t know why!)  Alternatively, I think you can purchase egg roll skins frozen.  I haven’t used this type of frozen product, but my guess is that it is similar to the refrigerated product.
If you are working gluten free go for the rice paper wrappers.  Whichever wrapper you choose, the method for filling and baking is the same.
Using rice paper wrappers for the first time?  They can be a little daunting, but let me share what I’ve learned over the last few years.  First, set out a lasagna pan with about ½ inch of warm water.  Take a clean kitchen towel and get it wet in running water then wring it out.  Lay the wet cloth onto your work surface.  Take out a wrapper and dip it into the warm water bath.  We need only bathe the thin beauty for about 5-10 seconds before taking it out and laying it on the wet cloth.  When I started using rice wrappers a few years ago I was soaking the wrappers for almost 30 seconds and using very limp wrappers. (No lewd comments!)  Now I dip them and remove them at a point when the press imprints are still visible on the paper.  Using the wet cloth as the work surface base and keeping the wrapper a bit more firm seems to make rolling easier.  Less tears and tighter rolls make for a better product.


If you are using the egg roll wrappers you need no prep and should work on a dry surface.  You will need a little bowl of water so you can dip your fingers and moisten the edges of the pasta so it sticks to itself as you roll.
Now we’re ready!  We are working with one wrapper at a time.  Start by laying out the wrapper that you just dunked on a clean work surface.  Spoon about 2 Tbsp of filling onto the bottom 1/3 of the wrapper and begin rolling the bottom up over the filling.  Once your wrapper is covering the filling fold in the left side toward the center and  then fold in the right side toward the center.  You are sealing the edges with this step and it is the same move that you make when creating a burrito.  Sides folded in, now all you need to do is roll the roll up so the filling is well encased.  Done one?  Good, set it aside and continue until your filling is used up!
Step 1: place filling near bottom of moist wrapper


Step 2: pull bottom of wrapper up over filling and roll slightly


Step 3: fold left and right edges in to center

Step 4: roll from bottom to top


rice wrapped rolls before baking


Prep 2 sheet pans by lining each with a sheet of parchment paper.  Set the rolls on the sheet pans and brush them lightly with oil (I use olive oil).  Put the pans into the hot oven on a low rack and let them bake for 20 minutes.  We’re going to use tongs and flip the rolls so they brown evenly on both sides.  Put the pans back in the oven and bake again.  If you used egg roll wrappers you should be finished with another 10 minutes of baking.  If you used rice paper wrappers you’ve got another 20-30 minutes.  Trust me on this one, you don’t want to pull out the rice wrapped spring rolls until they are really crispy or they will get limp and soft before you can serve them.
rice wrapped crispy rolls
Crispy rolls are done… plate them and serve them hot.  Egg roll wrapped rolls will keep if you have leftovers.  Rice paper wrapped egg rolls with get soft after about 30 minutes, so don’t think you’re making a big batch and saving these guys or you’ll be disappointed.  If you want leftovers keep your rice wrapped rolls raw with raw ingredients inside.  Raw spring rolls can keep in the fridge for a few days.  I will share my favorite raw spring roll recipe with you sometime too.  I love them!

traditional egg roll wrappers




Non-veg option:  not everyone in my family is vegetarian.  They are close, but not quite.  So, I prep a poultry filling for spring rolls/egg rolls as well.  I set aside half of the vegetable mixture and add in ½  pound ground turkey or ground chicken that I’ve browned and drained.  My hybrid batch is 12 veg and 12 non veg rolls.  I used to make these with a full pound of ground meat and less veg, but I’ve worked the veg up and meat down and no one is complaining… lol!  Baby steps! 

New or unusual items:
Bragg’s Amino Acids – made from non-GMO soybeans, this liquid is a non-fermented, gluten free substitute for soy sauce.  Bragg’s claims many health benefits, but I’ll leave you to read those for yourself.  Check out the link for more info if you’d like it!

pen gives you an idea of how small these are

Baby Bok Choy – cute, tiny bok choy cabbage.  Very tender and very versatile.  Can be used in place of bok choy in recipes.  Can be steamed, roasted, sautéed whole --- can be sliced too.  Mild flavor. 




Egg Roll Wrappers – a square or round, fresh or frozen pasta sheet that is used to make egg rolls.  Not gluten free.  Requires refrigeration.

Rice Paper Wrappers – thin round or square, dry sheets of rice starch that need to be rehydrated briefly in a water bath before using.  Fabulous for making fresh, raw spring rolls.  Can also be baked and allegedly fried!  Gluten free, shelf stable, require no refrigeration until used.


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Spicy Raw Tomato Sauce, Act 3

Have I mentioned how much I like a good leftover?  I'm not joking.  Today I am looking at the 3rd and final act for the batch of Spicy Raw Tomato Sauce that I made the other day.  I'm thinking of using it as a soup base, though the idea of adding a bit of this workhorse into some white bean puree for a spicy white bean dip is weighing on my mind. Since we have a snow storm on the way I am declaring the soup idea the winner!  Having a pot of soup on hand is a good thing when snow is a-comin!  In the event that we need to get all frontier minded and hunker down, I know that I can reheat soup in the cast iron pot on the wood stove (and I swear it will taste 10 times better coming out of that pot than anything else!)
 
Here we go:
Act 3 Soup
(makes about 8 big bowls of soup)Act 3 soup, thick with rice and lentil
2.5 cups Raw Spicy Tomato Sauce 12 cups water 2 cups brown rice (not cooked) 1/2 cup brown lentils (not cooked) 2 tsp ground cumin 3 Tbsp broth powder    1 tsp sea salt 1 tsp black pepper 1 Tbsp tomato paste Add all ingredients into at least a 4 quart stockpot (you want to have enough room to stir without sloshing!)  Simmer over medium heat for one hour or until the rice and lentils are cooked.  Easy peasy! The rice takes on a golden tint from the turmeric in the tomato sauce.  There is still a hint of ginger while the rest of the spices and the onion make just a nice savory vegetable soup base.  Add in's could be anything from carrots and celery to more tomato or leftover beans.  Think minestrone, think vegetable soup.  If you have meat eaters, you could add in leftover chicken for a lightly spiced chicken vegetable soup.  Adjust the seasonings to suit your taste, try a bit more broth powder or salt and pepper.  Top each bowl with minced cilantro or a swirl of coconut milk if you want to get fancy. The beauty of cooking this way is that we waste very little.  I like to call  cooking it by the seat of your pants.  In the same way that aviators are said to "fly by the seat of their pants" aka without a flight plan, instruments, radio, etc., so can we cook!  We can be culinary renegades, working without the guidance of a cookbook, leaving Food TV behind!  I cook this way all the time, and, only occasionally do I have something crash and burn. It just so happens that I had something bite the dust last night.  I love rice paper wrappers and have tried to use them in a few different ways... so far, the only successful way I've found is to rehydrate them and use them as fresh wrappers for raw spring rolls.  I sure want them to be able to do more though... yes, I do!  So, the little experiment that I did last night involved rice paper wrappers and steam.  I now know that those two things don't mix, but it took a solid try to figure out because nobody tells you these things... well, I'm telling you now, but no one told me! Anyway, the sad story is that I made a handful of these fresh rolls in a sort of dumpling style and purse style and in the traditional roll.  I prepped my steamer basket and had my shallow water at a low boil.  The perfect steam environment was within my grasp!  A little oil on the steamer to prevent sticking (so I thought) and away I went.  The lid shut on the steming pan, I began to smell the little goodies.  My children even commented how nice things were smelling in the kitchen.  We were all getting a bit excited and, truth be told, you could have caught any one of us wiping a little drool from the corner of our mouths as we salivated like hungry wolves near the fragrant pan.  A few minutes passed and I removed the lid.... and along with it came a few of the rolls because the rice paper stuck like glue to the lid... and I thought I could rescue the few that were still laying there in tact... so I got the tongs and went right in there with confidence... until I found the plump shiny parcels completely and totally glued to the steamer basket.  It was a steamer basket casket and it was a sad sad sight.  I share this with you because it's important to validate that trying and experimenting is worthwhile even when you fail.  Without the failures we can't find our way to the successes.  For me, the key is not taking anything too seriously in the kitchen.  

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Spicy Raw Tomato Sauce, Act 2

We're all busy, right?!  I know I am.  So anytime I can make something work for me in different ways I do!  I especially like working with leftovers and consider them somewhat of a personal challenge. That said, let me fill you in on my kitchen adventures today.  The Spicy Raw Tomato Sauce that I made yesterday was a truly fabulous dressing for my raw kale salad.  Exactly what I was looking for yesterday.  Today I wanted to change it up and it was easy to do considering the recipe makes 5 abundant cups of raw goodness.  When I packed things up yesterday I split the leftovers into 2 containers, each holding just shy of 2.5 cups of raw sauce.  I knabbed one of those bad boys around lunch time today and used it to make a warm sauce for my take on Palak Paneer.  Traditioanlly made with pureed spinach and firm mild cottage style dairy cheese cubes, Palak Paneer is fragrant, spicy, creamy and delicious.  Making it vegan isn't much of a challenge so I encourage you to give this a try.  Don't let the tofu deter you even if you don't normally like it.  In this recipe the tofu is fried and crispy and it is enveloped by the luscious coconut milk enhanced tomato sauce.
Sarah's Vegan Tofu Palak Paneer
(makes 1 serving of tofu, enough sauce 5 servings)

raw spinach topped with warm coconut tomato sauce and crispy tofu
1/4 block firm tofu* 1/4 cup olive oil for frying the tofu 2.5 cups Raw Spicy Tomato Sauce                2 tsp ground cumin 1/2 tsp chili powder 2 tsp tamarind paste 1 cup coconut milk (canned, fresh or made from coconut creme concentrate)
Let's start by pouring the coconut milk and tamarind paste into a saucepan.  Begin warming the mixture over low heat.  As you do so, take a wooden spoon and mash the tamarind paste into the coconut milk until it is incorporated.  Most tamarind paste has pulpy bits, and that's okay.  Just do your best to blend the paste into the coconut milk so we avoid a bit of pungent paste.
Once the paste is incorporated go ahead and add the raw tomato sauce, ground cumin and chili powder.  If you are not a big fan of spicy heat this is the time to make your own adjustments and cut down or cut out the chili powder.  The raw tomato sauce is a bit spicy, but the cooking process mellows it considerably so I like punching up the heat with chili powder.  You might not... know that you won't hurt my feelings at all if you don't... I think making recipes your own is exactly what you should do.  You have permission to experiment. Whisk the sauce over medium heat and enjoy the delightful aroma in the air around you.  This is not a pot that you need to watch or whisk constantly, so after that first few minutes go ahead and turn the heat down and leave things to simmer for about 10 - 15 minutes.  You're going to taste the sauce at that point and decide if the onion and garlic are cooked and mellow or if they still have their bite.  If you like where you are, shut off the heat and move on to the tofu.  If you don't... well, keep simmering until you get it there! Onto the tofu:  I heat up my oil in a very small saucepan since I am using so little oil and frying so few pieces of tofu.  Get your oil heating up over medium heat while you prep the tofu.  1/4 of a block of tofu works out to about 2 slices off the block that are 1/2 inch thick and maybe 3 inches long.  I slice each of the slices in half and then into 8 cubes so I end up with 16 cute little cubes of tofu.  It is very important to dry the tofu before you fry it.  Mark my words, DRY BEFORE YOU FRY or you'll regret it!  Splatter city baby... no lie.  Ouch!  My recommendation is to place the cubes on a clean kitchen towel and press them a bit to push out some of the water from the packaging. When your oil is hot and your tofu is cubed and dry go ahead and drop one cube into the oil.  Hear sizzling and see bubbles around the cube?  If you do you are good to go!  If not, bump up the heat a little and wait a minute.  Once you're at a hot temp go ahead and drop in your cubes 4 at a time.  Any more than 4 and you are going to cool the oil and create soggy tofu.  So, take your time and fry these guys 4 at a time, turning them with a slotted metal spoon so they brown a little and get crisp on all 4 sides before you pull them out.  Rescue your tofu and transfer it to a cooling rack to drain or set the little cuties onto paper towel or a clean brown paper bag while you continue the process until all of your tofu is fried.
Time for the spinach.  Palak Paneer is traditionally made with a pureed, almost creamed spinach.  I prefer raw elements in my meals so keeping the spinach raw is a no-b rainer!  Grab a few handfuls of raw baby spinach and give it a quick wash and spin in the salad spinner.  Run your knife through the leaves to chop them up a bit and them pile them in your serving bowl.  Top with about 1/2 cup of sauce and the warm, crispy tofu cubes.  Grab your fork and dig in! 

this is how I get into it... no shame in mixing it up!
  *Note about TOFU: I buy non-GMO organic tofu.  Because soybeans are such a heavily modified crop, the non-GMO designation is really important.  Genetically modified food creeps me out, frankly.  I'd rather not eat something that's been messed with at a cellular level.  Now, in the case of tofu, I choose organic as well when I can because it is also a processed food... it definitely doesn't look like a soybean anymore!  Since I wasn't able to judge the quality of the beans that went into the product, I at least want to know that they were pesticide free and as natural as possible. 


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