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Smoky Black Bean Soup (gluten free vegan)

From me to you on an icy NH day.  This soup can be made in your crockpot too if you don't want to mind the stove.  Soak your beans overnight or using the quick method (or cheat and use 3-4 big cans(I'm guessing) of black beans, drained and rinsed) and then put everything into the old faithful to simmer away all day.  You will be richly rewarded no matter which way you do it.  Top with diced raw tomato, pepper, avocado, tomatillo, scallions cilantro and salsa.  If you want to indulge, add a spoonful of tofutti sour cream and a sprinkle of daiya shredded cheddar! The smoky flavor comes from the cumin and smoked paprika.  If you want to go all out with the smoky rich flavor you can char your onions on a grill before adding them to the pot.  I find that the spices and the chipotle in adobo do the trick, but you can take it as far as you'd like! A tip or two:
  • To stretch this soup you can also make a pot of rice and serve a ladle of soup with a bowl of rice and the chopped veggies of your choice. 
  • Leftovers can be frozen in small amounts and added to a pot of minestrone or tomato soup to make a savory base.
 
 
[caption id="attachment_303" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Smoky Black Bean Soup"]Smoky Black Bean Soup[/caption]   Smoky Black Bean Soup 3 cups dry black beans (about 1 lb), soaked overnight 1 Tbsp olive oil 6 celery stalks 6 carrots 6 cloves garlic 2 large onions 10 cups water + 6 Tbsp broth powder or use your favorite broth in place of the water/powder 1 piece of dried kombu (optional) 2 Tbsp ground cumin 2 Tbsp smoked paprika 1 chipotle with 1 tsp adobo sauce or 2 tsp chipotle powder (more or less to suit your taste) Salt and Pepper to taste Pick over your dry beans and pull out any debris or pesky pebbles. Place the beans in a big soup pot, cover with a few inches of water and soak them overnight. If you’re short on time, bring your bean pot to a boil for 10 minutes then shut it off and let the beans soak for an hour at least before continuing.  Drain the soaked beans and discard the soaking water. While your beans are in the colander draining let’s work on the base of the soup. Working in batches using your food processor or your big kitchen knife, get the celery, carrots, garlic and onion to a mince.  I do each veg separately because my food processor is on the small side.  Plus, for whatever reason, I like sautéing my onions before the rest of the veg, so it makes sense in my mind to keep the veggies separate at this point. Heat your oil in the soup pot over medium heat.  Saute the onion until it is softened and golden. Stir in the spices along with the chipotle and adobo and let them go for a few minutes with the onions until everything is smelling amazing!  Add in the other minced veg, stir and cook for another minute.  We are looking to build that incredible glaze on the bottom of the pan really; that caramelized layer adds a lot of flavor and we want it to work for us!  The veg will cook along with the beans, so don’t worry about them.  Just stir them so nothing burns. Add the soaked beans, kombu, water and broth powder.  Kombu is a variety of seaweed which improves the digestibility of beans.  You can remove it when the beans are cooked or incorporate it into the soup.  Increase the heat and bring everything to a boil for 15 minutes.  Reduce the heat so we’re just at a slow simmer, cover the pot and leave it for about 90 minutes.  We aren’t cooking the beans to a soft oblivion today, we’re aiming for a bit of bite.  Pull out the kombu if you can find it, otherwise it will be blended into the soup yielding a little nutrition and a pinch of salty flavor (1 piece of kombu in this size pot will barely be noticeable if you puree it in). At this point, turn off the heat and let the soup cool for a few minutes.  We will be pureeing the mixture to yield a smooth bean soup.  If you’d rather not, then stop here, taste and adjust your seasoning before serving.  In my house, we like this soup mostly smooth with some whole black beans and then toppings of diced raw tomato, scallions, avocado, salsa, etc.  So once the soup has cooled a bit I reserve about 2 cups of cooked black beans in a bowl and then I ladle the rest in batches into the Vitamix blender and puree it.    This requires one big bowl on the side of the blender to hold the puree while I work through the non-pureed soup from the pot.  Then I put the pureed soup back into the pot, toss in the reserved beans and stir.  If the soup is too thick for your tastes go ahead and thin it with water or broth until you get a consistency you like.  If I need to heat it to serving temp, now’s the time.  Otherwise it is ready to be put in the fridge or freezer for a later meal.  The great part about this soup is that unlike dairy based soups this freezes really well and doesn’t break.  The flavor improves on day 2 and 3.  I tend to go mild on the chipotle favoring the addition of salsa or chiles by each soup eater.  It’s easier for me and my husband to make our bowls spicier rather than asking our kids to take the heat!

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Date, Nut and Oat Pancakes (gluten free vegan)

Pancakes are a favorite in my house.  My boys love them, my husband loves them and I love them.  The rest of my brood can enjoy wheat pancakes... and while I will make them from time to time I really feel left out when everyone else is eating from a sumptious golden stack and I am sipping tea and eating a piece of fruit.  I don't know what it is about pancakes that makes me feel the loss so deeply, but there it is.   The Teff pancakes I've been making for a while now are good pancakes.  They are earthy and a bit more dense than the fluffy wheat and egg versions of my younger days.  The date, nut and oat combination yields a sweet, dense pancake that is a bit like a Scottish Oatcake.  Instead of leaving the oats whole and adding wheat flour and egg to bind, I pulverize the oats and all to create a smooth batter that has tiny bits that are toothsome.  The batter is wet and dense and there is no threat of these guys falling apart.  The dates add plenty of sweetness.  For my taste, I would scale back to 2 or 3 dates, but my kids prefer the sweetness from 4.  The compromise is that they don't need maple syrup or anything on top.  I usually serve these with raw apple slices or a quick raw applesauce made in the Vitamix.  YUM! If you are sensitive to nuts you can omit them.  The sunflower seeds add a lovely bite and you can increase the amount of sunflower seeds to 3/4 or 1 cup if you're not using nuts. If you are not gluten sensitive regular oats will do fine here.  Oats are gluten free but are usually processed in facillities that also process wheat and gluten ingredients.  Bob's Red Mill has a dedicated facility for gluten free processing and packaging of oats, so if you need gluten free you can buy from Bob's with confidence. Enjoy! And as always, post and let me know if you try these.    [caption id="attachment_295" align="alignnone" width="225" caption="Date, Nut and Oat Pancakes"]Date, Nut and Oat Pancakes[/caption] Date, Nut and Oat Pancakes (or griddle cookies according to my kids!) 2 cups gluten free oats  4 Medool dates, pitted ½ cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts (optional, but wonderful)  ½ cup raw sunflower seeds (without shells) 4 Tbsp arrowroot powder ¼ tsp salt (I like sea salt)  1 cup almond milk or milk of your choice ½ cup water Preheat your griddle or a large sauté pan.  [caption id="attachment_296" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Dates and Oats"]Dates and Oats[/caption] Place all of the dry ingredients into your food processor and pulse until a coarse meal forms.  Add the almond milk and pulse to mix it with the dry ingredients.  Finally, add the water and pulse to create a wet batter.  The batter will firm up considerably as it sits, so have your griddle or pan hot and ready to go when the batter is done. [caption id="attachment_297" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Date, Nut Oat Pancake on the griddle"]Date, Nut Oat Pancake on the griddle[/caption]   Scoop out 2 Tablespoon portions of batter and drop onto a lightly oiled griddle or pan.  Spread the batter out into a 3 inch circle.  Cook for 4-5 minutes and then flip.  When you flip the pancake take the spatula and tap the pancake down so the bottom is flat and cooks evenly.  After another 4-5 minutes both sides should be a lovely nutty golden color.  The edges will be firm and a bit crisp.  You should get between 16 and 20 4 inch pancakes from a batch. [caption id="attachment_298" align="alignnone" width="225" caption="Stacked"]Stacked[/caption]

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Raw Lemon Bars

 The cooked lemon bars I made the other day are truly lovely.  They were great with tea and made a nice light dessert.  8 thumbs up from my household... says a lot!  Anyway, I try to keep a good part of my diet raw, so making raw lemon bars helps to keep me in line (as if that's possible!)  These bars are based on my go to recipe for date nut treats.  I play with this recipe a lot by changing the variety of nuts and adding flavors and spices.  It's hard to mess up dates, nut and a flavor.  So it's no surprise to me that lemon and lemon zest make a zippy bar that is bound for my recipe file!  Hope you get a chance to try this one.  Let me know if you do! [caption id="attachment_288" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Lemon Bars, the raw, gluten free, vegan way!"]Lemon Bars, the raw, gluten free, vegan way![/caption] Raw Lemon Bars 1/2 cup raw almonds 1/2 cup raw cashews 1/2 cup shredded dried coconut + 1/2 cup more for edging when they are cut zest of 1 organic lemon 1 cup pitted dates ~ 10-12 fresh medjool dates 1/3 cup lemon juice 1 tsp vanilla powder or fresh vanilla bean from a piece about 1" long Pour the lemon juice over the raw almonds and let them soak for an hour or more. [caption id="attachment_290" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Ingredients for the Raw Lemon Bars"]Ingredients for the Raw Lemon Bars[/caption] In a food processor, combine all the ingredients and pulse until the mixture comes together.  The dough will look like crumbs at first and then a ball will form… possibly a paste if you continue to process.  Go as far as you like.  If you prefer a bar with some texture to it, then pulse for about 30 seconds.  If you prefer something smooth, pulse until the mixture is sticky and smooth. Press the dough into a 8" x 6" bar pan. I use a stoneware pan from the Pampered Chef.  Refrigerate for an hour or until firm (this will depend on the level of moisture in your mixture and how smooth you made your dough).  [caption id="attachment_289" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="slicing the bars"]slicing the bars[/caption] When firm, cut into bars.  If you want “Larabar” type bars score your pan down the middle and then into 1.5 inch strips for that classic bar shape.  This size batch makes thin bars, but they are good!  Snack sized bites are also yummy.  My kids like little squares and balls of this mixture (search back for my chai yummies recipe for another example).  If you love coconut as I do you'll want to press the bottom and sides of your sliced bars into more shredded coconut before serving.  It makes the bars really pretty and adds that extra coconutty yum to every bite! If your mixture gets stuck in the pan or you have an issue with the texture, all is not lost!  Scrape out spoonfuls of your mixture and roll it in coconut for something that easy to handle and great to snack on.  You can always pop your dough back into your food processor and add more coconut or nuts to firm things up if you need to! Variations:  use different nuts (whatever you have on hand); try orange juice and orange zest instead of lemon; soften the nuts in an alternative milk and add 1 – 2 Tbsp cocoa or cacao for a chocolaty treat; macerate a few raspberries instead of the lemon juice and use that as your liquid component for a berry bar; coconut milk and hazelnuts are a divine combination.  The possibilities are endless!  Play with your food and find something that you love --- then post it and share your ideas with me! Share

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Sloppy Joes

[caption id="attachment_283" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Lentil Sloppy Joe with Vegan Cheese and Steamed Broccoli"]Lentil Sloppy Joe[/caption] I have fond memories of the sweet and tangy sloppy joe sauce that my dad made.  It was the stuff of finger licking legend.  Though I don't make my sloppy joes with ground meat, I love the hearty bite that the lentils give and the earthy balance of the portobello mushrooms.  Not to brag, but I think my sloppy joe sauce is good enough to earn a place in my children's culinary memory and in your recipe file.  Only time will tell!  But if clean plates and requests for seconds are any indication, I think I'm on the right track! The real key to incredible flavor for this meal is the smoked paprika... click on it in the ingredients list and you can order it from Penzey's if you don't have it in your cabinet. Enjoy! Lentil Sloppy Joes This multi step process is worth the effort.  You’ll be spending about an hour in the kitchen to get this done, but the batch is HUGE and makes plenty of leftovers that you can package up and bump into the freezer for a meal next week and the week after! Using you food processor or mad knife skills, mince the following: 1 large onion, minced 2 cloves garlic, minced 4 carrots, minced 4 celery stalks, minced 10 oz Portobello mushrooms, minced Add the minced veggies to a large stockpot in which you’ve warmed a tsp of olive oil.  Stir the veg while they brown and soften, about 10 minutes.  They will become super fragrant. Add: 2 cups lentils * 6-8 cups water *(I usually use brown or green lentils, but you can use red lentils too.  Reduce your liquid by a cup if you use red lentils.  They cook faster, so watch your time too!) Stir the pot and simmer for 40 minutes until the lentils are till tender and the liquid is absorbed.  (If your liquid is not absorbed after 40 minutes try the quinoa/millet add in noted in the next step.)  Stir in: 1 cup uncooked millet or quinoa (optional, adds nutritional value & helps if your lentils are liquidy!) 7 oz jar organic tomato paste 1 cup tomato sauce 1 cup ketchup (or a 2nd cup of tomato sauce) 1 Tbsp chipotle chili powder 1 Tbsp oregano 3 Tbsp smoked paprika (This is the key to fabulous flavor!!!) 1 Tbsp cumin 1 Tbsp cinnamon 2 Tbsp prepared mustard (I used a grainy mustard that has a nice vinegar kick) 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar Sweeten: 4 medool dates, pitted OR 1 Tbsp brown sugar (I prefer my sugars to be from whole foods, but if you don’t have dates then brown sugar will do) If you've added the quinoa or millet your pot will need about 10 -15 minutes more to simmer while those seeds absorb their liquids.  If you're not using the seeds just proceed.  Remove 1 cup and blend it in the food processor with the 4 pitted dates until smooth.  Add back into the pot and stir to combine. Serve your sloppy lentil ragout on a roll of your choice or just on a plate with a side of steamed broccoli and some fresh greens. [caption id="attachment_284" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Lentil Sloppy Joes without the bun are an easy Gluten Free Vegan meal!"]Lentil Sloppy Joes without the bun[/caption] Leftovers are even better.  You can also take half of your leftovers and season them with more chipotle chile and some diced tomato to make a good taco filling.  Top with fresh guac, crisp lettuce and sliced peppers and you’re on your way to another easy meal. ***Check out Lentil Sloppy Joes v2 by clicking here!

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Luscious Lemon Bars (feel free to eat the whole pan because you can!)

Today is a day that you are going to be glad you're reading my blog.  Yes-sir-ee!  Good day in the kitchen!  The Meyer Lemons in my fridge have been begging me to use them, so I went for the lemon bar.  Having tried a sweet lemon bar recipe a while back from Isa C. (who is a phenom in the vegan kitch world), I had a plan.  I am also pretty particular with my sweets.  I don't like anything too sweet... so there's that!  I like my lemon bars lemony rather than super sweet and I need a base that's gluten free... it's a bit of a departure from a normal lemon bar recipe!  I need something worthy of a cuppa tea.   Right, the result of my crust experiment is nothing short of buttery, amazingly flaky shortbread that you totally should write home to mom about.  Actually, I suggest you make a batch and bring some to mom and have an afternoon of tea and biscuits!  If she's not close, mail them!  If she's no longer with us, grab your bestie and share!  So much potential for this shortbread biscuit crust.  I can't wait to experiment with it and share more ideas with you! The lemon layer is akin to jelled lemon curd.  Getting the right level of jell is the tricky part.  You don't want something that's wiggly like unset jello, but you don't want something with no give at all.  Enter agar agar and arrowroot!  These guys are like a dream team when it comes to vegan jelling.  If you haven't worked with agar agar before, know that it's a great thing.  It has jelling properties that rival gelatin but it's seaweed based rather than animal based.  Eden Foods brand of agar agar is what I use.  [caption id="attachment_271" align="alignright" width="300" caption="GFV Lemon Bars"]GFV Lemon Bars[/caption]    GFV Lemon Bars Crust 1 cup amaranth flour 1 cup almond meal ½ cup powdered sugar ½ cup arrowroot powder 1 cup vegan margarine, like Earth Balance
 
 Filling 1 1/3 cups water 3 Tbsp agar agar flakes 1/3 cup sugar + 4 packets stevia or 2/3 cup sugar 1/8 teaspoon turmeric (gives the brilliant yellow color while not adding any flavor) 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (I used meyer lemons ~ yum!) 3 Tbsp arrowroot powder 1 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest (from two large ORGANIC lemons)* OR 1 tsp lemon extract if your lemons are not organic 1/2 cup almond milk 
 *I only zest my citrus if I can find organic because of the high level of pesticide use on non organic citrus fruits.  Do what makes you comfortable. Preheat your oven to 400 F. Lightly grease a 13 x 9 inch baking pan. [caption id="attachment_275" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="the flours"]the flours[/caption] 
 To prepare the crust: Pulse the flours, sugar, arrowroot and Earth Balance in your food processor. The dough is not crumbly, it is moist but not pourable.  You will need to scoop the dough out of the food processor and scrape the sides to get it all out!  Moisten your hands and press the dough into the corners of your prepared baking dish.  Then try to get an even layer that covers the bottom of the pan.  Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool. [caption id="attachment_272" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="shortbread crust dough"]shortbread crust dough[/caption] [caption id="attachment_273" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="dough in the pan"]dough in the pan[/caption] 
 [caption id="attachment_274" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="golden crust"]golden crust[/caption] To prepare the luscious lemon filling: Start by soaking your agar agar flakes in the water for 10 minutes. I sprinkle mine over the top of the water and walk away.  Get your lemons zested and juiced.  Measure out 2/3 cup of the fresh lemon juice and mix your arrowroot powder until it dissolves.
 When the agar has been soaking for 10 minutes go ahead and put the pot on the burner.  We are looking to boil this mixture so the softened agar dissolves.  This usually takes me 10, sometimes 15 minutes.   When the agar is dissolved, add the turmeric and your sugar/stevia or whatever combo you’ve chosen to use.  Stir this wildly yellow mixture until everything is dissolved and there are no lumps.   Now it’s time to lower the heat so we’re just barely bubbling... anything more than a light bubble and we’re going to end up with a mess!   Add the arrowroot/lemon juice mixture and whisk.  Raise the heat a hair and keep whisking.  You will feel the mixture start to thicken as it comes to a low boil. Again, AND I STRESS, we are not aiming for a bubbling cauldron here!  Do that and the arrowroot will lose its gelling power.  Exercise a little restraint with the heat… go slow and your labor will pay off!  Otherwise, you will have a super tasty lemon sauce that you can drizzle over berries and such, but you won’t have anything that will thicken worth a dime!  Okay.  Back to business:  Add your zest or lemon extract and the almond milk. Whisk these into the thickened mixture.  You may want to taste this now.  The safe way to do it is to get a clean spoon and dip it into the hot lemon liquid, then take it out, blow on it for a moment and then swipe your finger over the spoon… then lick your finger.  You should have cooled your sample enough that you won’t burn yourself.  If you need to adjust the sweetness, go ahead.  You know your tastes.  I like my lemon bars lemony with a bit of a kick.
 Remove your pan with the cooked lemon mixture from the burner.  It’s time to cool this a bit.  Give it about 10-15 minutes to come to room temperature.  Cooling happens quicker when we’re not near the residual heat of the stove.  I put mine on a metal trivet on the counter in the coolest part of my kitchen. Pour the cooled lemon mixture over the cooled crust, refrigerate.  We’re aiming for 2 hours of chill time minimum to ensure that the filling sets.  If you can leave it for a bit longer that will be better.  Also, if you used a smaller baking dish than 9 x 13 you will have to chill longer to accommodate the thicker lemon layer. [caption id="attachment_276" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="lemon layer"]lemon layer[/caption] If you want to make the tops of these bars look fancy you can sprinkle powdered sugar over top through a fine mesh strainer.  You just tip in about 3 Tbsp of powdered sugar and then tap the side of the sifter to get a snow like dusting.  Not necessary by any stretch, but it sure does look pretty! You’ve done well and are in the home stretch… it’s time to slice the bars into squares and serve them.  Size is your choice.  Sometimes I go the dainty one bite square root.  Today I am slicing tea worthy bars.  You should make them the size that makes you smile.   (Heck, if you just took a fork to the pan and scooped out a bite I won’t tell!) [caption id="attachment_277" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Luscious lemon goodness!"]Luscious lemon goodness![/caption]

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Black Beans with Fresh Tomatillo Green Pepper Sauce

With fresh ingredients on hand a quick dinner is easy.  For this one I had cooked black beans, tomatillo, garlic, onion, tomato and herbs.  Start to finish, 10 minutes.  The most labor intensive bit is chopping the onion and getting it sauteed.  If you have leftover guacamole it's an easy add on; leftover rice is equally nice, but don't be ashamed of scooping these tasty beans out of the bowl with a piece of bread or even a few baked tortilla chips.  Can't go wrong.  The great news in this meal is that you control the heat of the spices and the level of sodium.  Have fun cooking!
[caption id="attachment_265" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Black Beans with Tomatillo and Green Pepper Sauce"]Black Beans with Tomatillo and Green Pepper Sauce[/caption]   Quick Black Beans with Fresh Tomatillo and Green Pepper Sauce Beans 2 cups cooked black beans, leftover homemade beans are best, but canned are quick and easy 1 onion, diced and sauteed until golden and sweet ½ tsp ground chipotle pepper Sauce 4 fresh tomatillos 2 cloves garlic, peeled 1 handful cilantro ½ of a lime, juiced 1 squirt saracha (to taste) 1 green pepper, seeds removed To prep the black beans:  Combine your sautéed onions and black beans in a sauce pan (or in the pan you sautéed your onions).  Sprinkle chipotle over top and stir.  Warm through. To prep the Tomatillo and Green Pepper Sauce:  Add everything into your Vitamix or food processor. Whiz until you have a sauce that is pretty well pureed… this takes about 10 seconds when I use the Vitamix.  The sauce isn’t totally liquid but isn’t chunky like salsa. [caption id="attachment_267" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Tomatillo Green Pepper Sauce"]Tomatillo Green Pepper Sauce[/caption] [caption id="attachment_266" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Tomatillos"]Tomatillos[/caption] Note: If tomatillos are new to you there are only a few things you really need to know.  First, when buying tomatillos you’re looking for plump, firm produce that fills the papery skins.  Second, the papery skin is basically stuck to the fruit underneath it.  You need to peel the skin off and then wash the fruit in cool water to remove the tacky film.  No other peeling is necessary.  Tomatillos are great raw, boiled and roasted.  You really can’t go wrong!

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Chai Spice Blend

I get on flavor kicks, in case you haven't noticed.  Indian spices and chai are particularly appealing to me in the winter.  I have a love affair with heat, truth be told, and I'll do just about anything to avoid being cold.  I'm not at all ashamed to tell you that I warm up my pjs with my hairdryer, believe the best gift I've ever received (besides my children) is my amazing heating blanket and I use those nifty handwarming pouches all the time.  Now you know.  The warming spices in my Chai Blend are not only tasty, but they are also comforting and helpful to those like me who enjoy warmth. The Chai Spice Blend I've shared with you before is something I pretty much have on hand all the time.  I will toss a teaspoon into a banana bread recipe just as quickly as I'll use it to punch up the flavor of carrot soup.  It makes a quick curry sauce with an added pinch of turmeric, a dash of saracha and a smash of garlic.  There's so much that this blend can do to make your day more interesting!  I figured since I use it so much that I should tell you a bit more.  May my experiences with Chai be fodder for your culinary experiments! 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.    Okay, an example for you: The last of the mango trio I bought was sitting on my counter this morning starting to look a bit sad.  It was now or never for this guy, so he hit the cutting board.  Mango aren't native to NH, of course, but it's hard for me to resist their musky orange flesh.  I buy local as much as possible, but in cases like this with mango I choose to use what's available.  The fruit is already on my grocer's shelf and needs someone to use it... so that person is sometimes me.  I know this perpetuates the problem because if I didn't buy it they might not order it, etc, etc.  I know.  But when a girl needs a mango, a girl needs a mango.  Maybe when I'm older I'll plant myself somewhere tropical and surround myself with coconuts and mangoes and I will sing every day, grow my hair wildly long again and be blissfully warm ever after.  Until then, I will buy my mangoes and not apologize for my action. Right, so the mango peeled and cubed sat in my breakfast bowl.  He was ready to go and so was I, but there's this bowl of chai spice on my counter and I'm not afraid to use it.  The kids had already stirred a bit into their yogurt and I could smell the ginger... it was a natural progression! Spiced Mango 1 ripe mango, peeled, cut off the pit and cubed 1 tsp chai spice, more or less to your liking [caption id="attachment_256" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Spiced Mango"]Spiced Mango[/caption]   How else can you use the Chai Spice Blend?  Here are some ideas to get you started:
  1. Buy a small carton of soy or coconut creamer and tip in a few Tablespoons of the spice blend.  Put the cap back on and shake.  Leave this in your fridge overnight, at least, so the spices permeate the creamer.  You can do this with any milk or milk alternative.  The longer you let the spices hang out in the liquid the more intense the flavor. Use the Chai creamer with your next cup of black tea for a spicy kick.  If you don't like gritty tea just pour your cuppa through a strainer before drinking. 
  2. Add a teaspoon or more to your favorite banana bread batter.
  3. Slice some bananas and toss with chai spice.  Give them a quick warm up in a saute pan with a little knob of Earth Balance or coconut oil, then drizzle with agave or maple syrup and enjoy warm, creamy, spiced banana. --- A splash of rum and fresh coconut curls make this dish into a real party for the over 21 crowd!
  4. Chai spiced hot cocoa is exceptional.  Add a teaspoon of the spice into your favorite mix or homeblend.  I think the dark vegan chocolate and cacao options are a stunning match for chai spices.  The combination makes me think of Mexican moles (mol-eh's, not the little critters that burrow in the ground!)
  5. Sprinkle Chai spices over yogurt and fruit for a warming morning treat.
  6. Add chai spice into a batch of garlicky lentils.  Toss in a pinch of turmeric and a hit of saracha. 
  7. Warm a bit of coconut oil and toss some raw cashews to get them coated.  Then sprinkle the nuts with 1-2 tsp of chai spices and shuffle them around so they're well dressed.  Let them dry on a baking sheet and then snack on them!
  8. Pulse equal amounts of dates and nuts in your food processor.  Add Chai Spice to suit your taste.  Roll into small balls, coat with shredded dried coconut and enjoy as a snack.
Post a comment and let me know how you're using Chai Spices... I can't wait to hear what you come up with! Share

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Spicy love

Wow, February has been busy in my house!  It's Valentine's Day already... can you believe that?!  Yikes!  Well, Valentines day seems to me to be about sweet treats and indulgence and expressing love with fun foods.  My kids are certainly not strangers to treats, but we definitely don't do refined sugar in the way that we used to.  Today I made cinnamon rolls my way and loved them! A couple things make my cinnamon rolls different from the massive cinnabon style buns.  First, my guys aren't sickly sweet.  They are citrus spiced and subtly sweetened with dates.  Oranges, whole, juicy oranges provide the liquid mass for this dough.  It's whole food goodness with no milk or oil fillers and fat to cloud the flavor of the ingredients.  The gluten free flours tend to lend an earthier quality than white wheat flour, but teff, sorghum and amaranth are among the earthier alternative flours out there.  These are not rolls that will leave you feeling gluttonous, rather, these are treats that are meant to be enjoyed as a component of a healthy breakfast... not as breakfast alone.  I'm talking about having one cinnamon roll alongside a fruit salad and a cup of tea.  The rolls are balanced... and that may be why I love them. Here are two variations on the same basic roll.  I've made this recipe with a few different flour combinations to show you how you can change things up to suit your taste and also to work with what's in your pantry.  The first is a roll roll, and is great with a meal or with a cup of tea.  The second is the cinnamon roll.  It is versatile and lightly sweet and also makes a great biscuit/cookie!
[caption id="attachment_238" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Spiced Orange Rolls"]Spiced Orange Rolls[/caption]   Spiced Orange Rolls Ingredients 1 Tbsp Yeast 3 cups Sorghum flour ¾  cup Teff flour ¼ cup Tapioca flour 2 Tbsp chai spice or 2 tsp Cardamom, ground 12-oz orange puree (from about 3 oranges) 1 tsp. Lecithin 4 dates, pitted ½ cup Water (use if needed to get a moist but not sticky dough) ½  cup Raisins Preheat oven to 345 degrees.  Put oranges and dates into the food processor and process until smooth.  [caption id="attachment_239" align="alignright" width="300" caption="orange and date blend"]orange and date blend[/caption] You’ll have a pulpy juice mixture and the dates should be well incorporated.  Keeping your raisins aside, add the remaining ingredients and pulse until a dough forms.  Add a bit of water as you go if your dough seems dry.  We don’t want a wet or sticky dough, but it shouldn’t be crumbly either. Let’s turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board.  I used Sorghum flour since it’s lighter than the teff.  Put the raisins on top of the dough and knead them in.  Once they are relatively uniformly distributed pat the dough out into a rectangle that is about 12 inches long and 6 inches wide.  [caption id="attachment_240" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Spiced Orange Dough studded with Raisins"]Spiced Orange Dough[/caption] Using a knife, score the dough in half lengthwise and then make 6 cuts spanning the width so we have 12 equal pieces.  Take each piece and roll it into a ball in your hands, then make flatten the bottom for a cute roll shape.  Place your formed rolls onto a parchment lined baking sheet or onto preheated baking stones in the oven. [caption id="attachment_241" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="heading into the oven"]heading into the oven[/caption] Bake for about 25 minutes.   Cinnamon Orange Rolls Ingredients Filling 1 cup pecans 6 dates 1 Tbsp ground Cinnamon 1 tsp vanilla powder Dough 12-oz orange puree (from about 3 oranges) 4 dates, pitted 1 Tbsp Yeast 2 cups Amaranth flour 1 cup Arrowroot flour ½  cup Teff flour 1 Tbsp ground Cinnamon 1 Tbsp vanilla powder 1 tsp. Lecithin Equipment you’ll need: 2 bowls food processor rolling pin Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  First things first, we need to make the filling.  Dump all of the filling ingredients into the bowl of your food processor and pulse it until everything is combined and you've got a sticky paste.  Tip the mixture out into a bowl and give the food processor a quick swish with water so we can get going on the dough. [caption id="attachment_245" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="date nut filling"]date nut filling[/caption] Down to business: put your 3 oranges and 4 pitted dates into the food processor and process until smooth.  [caption id="attachment_242" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="We start with whole foods"]Oranges and dates[/caption] You’ll have a pulpy juice mixture and the dates should be well incorporated.  Add the remaining dough ingredients and pulse until a dough forms.  You will likely need to scrape the sides of your food processor several times during the process to ensure uniform mixing. [caption id="attachment_243" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="amaranth dough"]amaranth dough[/caption] Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  I used Amaranth flour since it’s the main flour in this dough.  Knead the dough a turn or two and then grab your rolling pin.  Make sure that your work surface is well floured or this dough will stick!  Roll out a rectangle about 24 inches long and 12 inches wide.   [caption id="attachment_244" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Even though it's a tender dough, it rolls out beautifully."]rolled out[/caption] Scoop the filling out its bowl and drop it in clumps down the center of the rolled out dough.  Using a spatula or flat knife spread out the filling until the surface of the dough is covered.  You will have a thin coating of the nut mixture. spread out the filling Now it’s time to roll this guy.  Starting at the long edge that is closest to you, begin to roll the dough.  Think jelly roll, think rolling a sleeping bag… we are rolling the dough over onto itself until it is one long rolled log.  Mission accomplished with the roll, so we’re going to use a serrated knife to slice 1.5 inch pieces of dough.  I ended up with 16 equal pieces.     [caption id="attachment_247" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="snug as a bug!"]cinnamon rolls[/caption] Place your sliced rolls in the pan of your choice.  They don’t rise very much so you need not leave a ton of room between them… in fact, you can pack them in like snug little bugs.  The only real prerequisite  is that you lightly oil your pan or line it with parchment. Bake for about 35 minutes. [caption id="attachment_248" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="fresh from the oven"]fresh from the oven[/caption]   Alternative: Slice the roll into cookie thickness, about ¼ inch thick and bake on a hot baking stone or parchment lined cookie sheet for 12-15 minutes.  Super, super crunchy and tasty treats.  Heck, make some into cinnamon rolls and some into cookies.  These are great with a cup of tea.

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Rawking another Snow Day

It's been another snowy day in NH.  Snowy days call for a little challenge to make things interesting... don't you think?  Maybe it's a bit of cabin fever that calls me to these things or maybe it's just me.  Either way, I read about a friend making a raw nutella this morning and I got a craving and had to do something about it.  Now, I had the recipe blurb from my friend and I wished I could jump right in from there but alas, no hazelnuts in my pantry!  But Nutella is chocolate-HAZELNUT spread, you say... I know.  I worried for about a split second that my experiment might not have the depth of flavor that it could have with hazelnuts.  Silly to worry.  Really silly!  This was my day for Rawking it Out! ("Rawking" is pronounced "rocking" really... very cool raw lingo... you can start using it too as you add more raw to your repertoire!) So I set out with my blender and food processor and lots of nuts and cacao powder and coconut oil and things.  My first attempt started with raw cashews, coconut creme, agave and cacao powder in the vitamix and it really resembled a mealy version of a raw revolution bar.  It was almost gummy.  I threw it into the food processor and added a few spoons of peanut butter, a couple of dates, some cocoa powder and maybe 1/2 cup of almond milk.  I wish I could give you exact measurements because what I have in a jar on my counter is nothing short of pure chocolate cream spread nirvana.  I was, however, really in a creating zone rather than a writing zone so I boobed and didn't jot down a thing!  [caption id="attachment_230" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="#1 on right, #2 on left"]A duo of chocolate nut spreads[/caption] Hence, experiment #2 which was an attempt to recreate experiment #1.  I did things a little differently to make it easier to get a creamy texture with less effort.  I also kept this one more simpler by leaving out the cocoa powder and peanut butter.  It is lighter in color but no less flavorful.  Smooth as smooth can be and creamy enough to make you pick up your pen and paper and write home to mom about it! The long and short of my tale today is that it's hard to mess up chocolate and nuts.  There is room to play here and I think you should.  You may have a texture challenge like I did with my first batch, but that was nothing that a little liquid and a lot of blending couldn't fix.  If you end up overdoing it you will have a nutrient rich chocolate sauce that would be a great fondue like dip.      Raw Chocolate Cashew Spread 1 cup raw cashews 1 cup almond milk (homemade for raw or store bought for mostly raw) 4 dates 1 Tbsp agave, maple syrup or honey (choose your favorite veg or vegan option here) 1 tsp vanilla powder (alternative is 2 tsp of vanilla extract) ½ cup raw cacao powder (I like Navitas Naturals) 1 Tbsp coconut crème or coconut oil *possible add in's for a richer chocolate flavor:  prepared peanut butter, cocoa powder, chocolate extract Put everything into a bowl and give a quick stir to combine.  Set the bowl aside for at least an hour so the cashews can absorb some of the almond milk and soften.  The longer the nuts soak the easier they will be to blend. Dump the soaked nuts et al into your Vitamix, other high octane blender or food processor and blitz until everything is creamy.  Spoon out your creation while trying not to lick the blades clean.  An hour or so of restraint will be worth your while if you can stand it because your chocolatey spread will thicken with a hair of refrigeration taking it from the realm of thick dip solidly into the land of buttery spread.  Set your kitchen timer if you must:  45 minutes to an hour or even overnight.  Then reward yourself with a heaping spoonful of creamy bliss right on its own or even better, slapped onto something salty and crunchy like a pretzel, or trump that and smear it thickly on a great piece of bread (GF bread takes to this spread like a natural!) ******************* Now, you might have thought that rawking the Vitamix and food processor several times already would have been enough for me today.  It might have been.  But my boys asked for one of their favorite desserts tonight and it is SO easy and SO good that I cleaned the Vitamix in a flash and whipped it up.  Not even 2 minutes and we were enjoying this bad boy/good boy.... whatever!  This stuff is so good that my 8 year old always says that the world should know about it... well here you go world! Raw Banana Ice Cream(makes 4 servings) 4 frozen bananas 1/2 cup almond milk 4 medool dates (optional, but truly lovely) 1 tsp vanilla powder Put everything in the Vitamix and blend until smooth and creamy.  Scoop out, grab your spoon and marvel in the wonder of your creation.  You won't believe how creamy and amazing this is until you make it yourself.  The thing you need to do is go out right now and buy a bunch of bananas (or two or three), get them home, peel them and break them in half before you lay them out on a baking sheet that you're going to pop in your freezer overnight.  When the banana pieces are frozen you can use them right away or pop them off the tray and into a container to store in your freezer until you're ready to make ice cream.  That's the hardest part... waiting for the bananas to freeze.  Word. (Your mind is likely spinning with ideas about flavoring this mad creamy cool concoction.  Dream away... you can add cocoa or cacao, you can add nuts (about 1/2 cup for this size batch) and flavor extracts (start with 1 tsp), and you can play with other milks.  This is the stuff that dreams are made of!) [caption id="attachment_231" align="alignright" width="300" caption="creamy banana goodness"]raw banana ice cream[/caption]

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A better bean burger

There are a lot of veggie bean burger recipes floating around the universe.  I haven’t found one that I really love even though I’ve played around with many of them.  Tonight I figured I’d wing it and throw some things together in the food processor.  Luckily I wrote things down as I went along because what came out of the oven was pretty great.  Kids gobbled them and I savored mine.  Actually, my guys liked these so much that they named them “Be-urgers” – bean burgers -- beurgers.  When they say it it sounds just like “burgers” so I didn’t get it until my 8 year old spelled it for me!  LOL!  It’s been a long day, so suffice it to say our dinner was totally yum.  I’m going to cut to the chase and just share it with you so I can head to bed! Adzuki Beurgers 2 cups cooked adzuki beans, al dente 1 cup GF oatmeal, whizzed into flour (Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free oats are great) 1 onion, diced and sautéed 2 organic delicata squash, about 6 inches long (optional) ½ tsp black pepper 2 tsp ground cumin 2 Tbsp tahini 2 Tbsp braggs 2 Tbsp dried hijiki (dried seaweed), pulsed into a powder ¼ cup water or veg broth Adzuki beurger with saladAdzuki beurgers for the kids Adzuki beans are joyful little red beans.  Sometimes I buy them canned.  Eden Foods has a good canned product.  I had time to soak and cook these guys today, which is my preference because I like to control the level of doneness.  For this recipe I figured that al dente beans would work, so that’s what I did.  If you are subbing canned beans you may need to adjust the moisture level when we get to the water/broth step.  Flavor wise, I think we’ll be on the same page either way so do what works for you. Let's get started:  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. delicata squashsquash "fries" Slice your squash in half and scoop out of the seeds.  Delicata squash have edible skin, so don’t peel them.  Cut the squash into long, thin slices.  We’re going for a play on fries here, so that’s the thickness and size you want.      Reserve 6 sticks of squash and put the rest on a parchment lined baking sheet.  You can drizzle them with olive oil if you want.  You can sprinkle them with seasoning of your choice.  I sprinkled my batch with herbs de provence and a bit of sea salt.  Throw the baking sheet into the oven and get back to the cutting board. Okay, dice the squash that you held aside.  Put the squash and minced onion into a sauté pan with a tsp of olive oil.  Add pepper and cumin and stir it all around.  Let the pan go over medium heat so the everything softens. We’re off to the food processor at this point.  First, measure and whiz the oats until they resemble coarse flour.  Add your sautéed veg and pulse until combined.  Add the 2 cups of beans, tahini, braggs and seaweed powder.  Pulse again until things come together into a dry-ish dough.  The beans will not be recognizable.  If things are too dry you can sprinkle a spoonful of water or broth into the work bowl and process it again.  Remember to use a spoon and scrape the bottom of your container so the mixture that is close to the blade doesn’t turn into bean dip! Turn your dough out onto a board and pat it into a 6 inch round.  I cut it into 4 pieces and then cut 2 of those pieces in half again for a total of 6 pieces (4 small, 2 large).  Shape the pieces into rounds and then flatten them.  You can dredge the patties in the crumb of your choice if you’ve got a really moist burger.  I did it to show you, but I didn’t need to with this batch.  bean doughforming beurgers Bake the burgers on a parchment lined sheet for about 8 minutes.  Since everything is cooked, we’re really just heating the burgers. everything on the sheet pan By the time the burgers are warm we should also have cooked squash fries.  Take the pans out of the oven and get plating.  Dress your burgers to suit your fancy.  I put mine down on some greens and topped it with tomato and a really garlicky guacamole.  The kids had their on buns with lettuce, tomato, ketchup and guac. I’ll tell you that my boys didn’t like the squash fries because of the seasoning I used.  I enjoyed them and I think the kids totally could have downed them had the kept dipping them in ketchup.  Right, catch you later.  Try the “beurgers” and let me know what you think!

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