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Easy Coconut Curry

My health coach, Tammi, gave me a challenge for this month... and I am not one to forego a challenge, so, this month I am experimenting with Macrobiotics.  Being introduced to macrobiotics this month has been really timely.  Traditionally a balancing and restorative way of approaching food and life, this philosophy has been a gift to me as I've been working to get my 5 year old through a particularly intense bout of croup and the respiratory ickies that follow.  The ease of cooking a huge pot of brown rice and using it as the base for our meals is making up for the lack of my beloved nightshade veggies.  I have a handful of recipes to post from the week, but this one was on our table last night.  I think it's macrobiotic... even if it's not 100% in keeping with the tradition, it was inspired by it and was tasty.   Easy Coconut Curry 1 knob of fresh ginger (about 2 tablespoons) 3 cloves garlic 1 onion, quartered 1 stalk fresh lemongrass (optional – see my note below) 14 oz can of coconut milk* 1 cup water 2 tbsp curry powder (use your favorite, we like Frontier Herbs) 3 cups cooked garbanzo beans 2 cups cauliflower, broken into small pieces 1 russet potato, peeled and cubed (about 2 cups cups) Put ginger, garlic, onion, lemongrass and coconut milk into your food processor or Vitamix blender.  Process until smooth.  (Note: I thought I processed my mixture well enough, but found strings of lemongrass in the finished curry.  They were not problematic, but it looked abit strange and might make people worry that they’re eating a piece of, gulp, hair.  So, my suggestion is to really blitz the mixture and then strain it if you aren’t sure that the lemongrass is incorporated.  Alternatively, chunk the lemon grass into large pieces and you can infuse the coconut milk with it in the next step and then fish the pieces out before serving.) Pour the spiced coconut milk into a large sauce pan and bring to a simmer over medium high heat for 5 minutes. Add the water, beans and vegetables and cook until the potato is soft, about 15 minutes. Serve with brown rice or quinoa and a nice salad. [caption id="attachment_451" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Easy Coconut Curry"]Easy Coconut Curry[/caption] *Homemade Coconut Milk is easy and is my preference, but not everyone has coconut in the pantry.   If you do, try this! 1 cup coconut flakes 2 cups  water Put everything in your Vitamix and blend on high speed for 3 minutes until the mixture is creamy.  Strain through cheesecloth or a nutmilk bag if you are drinking the coconut milk.  For this recipe, just use the coconut milk right from the blender! This video from tropical traditions will show you how to do it, though they use slightly different proportions than I do and they strain twice.  I love Tropical Traditions organic coconut flakes and they are the only brand I use!

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30 Minute Garden Tomato Sauce

If your garden is also at the height of tomato glory then this recipe is for you. I feel like typing, set it and forget it, because this guy is so easy. Basically your only prep work is washing your veggies and maybe cutting some in half so they fit in the pot! This is the kind of sauce that can handle a myriad of additions.  Great way to utilize leftover veg purees or bits that you might save for stock.  I added in 1/2 cup of leftover carrot puree and 1/2 cup of leftover spinach puree.  A handful of sundried tomatoes finished this off for me, but the sauce is bright and lovely just as it is.  The bottom line is that you can and should make this your own with what you have available. Enjoy!
30 Minute Garden Tomato Sauce 2 lbs tomato, whole 4 cloves garlic, unpeeled 1 onion, whole (if the skin is in great condition), peeled (if the skin is compromised) 2 celery stalk, halved or leftover celery ends Reserve: 1 lb zucchini or summer squash, diced Note: If you are serving your sauce over pasta, set up a 2nd pot with water for your noodles now.  Your water will be boiling in 10-15 minutes and you can drop the pasta in time to be ready for the sauce.  (You can thank me for tip this later.) [caption id="attachment_435" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Right out of the gateNearing the finish line"]Right out of the gate[/caption]
Now: Add all ingredients into a stock pot with 5-6 cups water.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat just after the pot boils and simmer for 20 minutes.  Turn the heat to low, use a slotted spoon to rescue the garlic and onion (if you dropped the onion with skin on, otherwise it will go with the other veggies); put these on your cutting board for a minute to cool.  In the meantime, transfer the veggies to your blender and whiz them until chunky or go further for a smooth sauce.  [caption id="attachment_437" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Softened Garlic"]Softened Garlic[/caption] Now, press on the garlic cloves and let the soft garlic squish out.  Add this to the blender.  Do the same thing with the onion, if you left the skin on… it’s pretty cool how it works the same way!  Add this to the blender too and whiz for a minute to blend everything.
 
 
 
 
Add your diced zucchini or squash to the pot and cover with the puree.  Bring the pot back to a simmer for 10 minutes.  If you are serving your sauce with pasta, now is the time to drop it into the water. Serve. Optional add in’s: a few carrots ½ cup leftover carrot soup ½ cup pureed greens ½ cup sundried tomatoes (you can toss these in at blending time if you have a Vitamix, otherwise let them soften with the other veggies while the pot is simmering.) This is how I enjoyed the sauce.  Post and let me know what you serve it with! [caption id="attachment_438" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Portobella caps with 30 Minute Sauce over greens"]Portobella caps with 30 Minute Sauce over greens[/caption]

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Avocado "Ranch" Dressing

For the love of avocado, you have to try this!  And do yourself a big favor by adding fresh tomato and carrot to the salad that you're dressing because avocado has been shown to dramatically boost absorption of beta carotene and lycopene (check out the link above for more info!). Notes: I found the garlic bite to be quite intense when I first mixed up the dressing.  Letting it stand definitely helps to mellow that flavor, but if you intend to serve this to kids shortly after making it you might want to half the garlic, try 1/4 tsp garlic powder or omit it all together.  The chives give a really lovely subtle onion flavor.  The dill flavor takes time to develop, so if you have a chance to let the dressing sit before serving, you will be rewarded.  I dressed some garden fresh greens for dinner tonight, but you can try this on baked potato, with fresh veggies or steamed veggies or as a dip for artichoke (yum!)  If you prefer a thick dip texture, or know some kids who do, cut the almond milk back to 1/2 cup but leave the remaining ingredients the same.  You could also leave the almond milk at 1 cup and add 1/2 a block of silken tofu to firm up the dressing into a dip.  If you go this route you will want to increase the chive to 1/2 cup and dill to 2 Tbsp to boost the flavor and balance the mellow tofu. Have you guessed yet that I adore avocado and need no special occasion to play with it in the kitchen!?  Talk about a creamy and versatile fruit!  I'm charmed. [caption id="attachment_427" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Avocado "Ranch" Dressing"]Avocado "Ranch" Dressing[/caption] Avocado "Ranch" Dressing 1 cup unsweetened almond milk juice of ½ a lemon (approx ¼ cup) 1 Tbsp raw apple cider vinegar 1 ripe avocado (about 1 cup) 1 clove garlic 1 bunch fresh chive (used a handful/ about ¼ cup, adjust to suit your taste) 1 Tbsp dried dill or ¼ cup fresh dill, finely minced ½ tsp salt ½ tsp pepper Place everything in your Vitamix, blender or food processor and blend until smooth and creamy.  Adjust for seasoning and then pour into a bowl and cover.  We want to chill this dressing for an hour or longer so the flavor develops. [caption id="attachment_428" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Garden Fresh Greens with Avocado Ranch Dressing: the orange tomato came from our garden, but there were only 2 so we each got 1/2!"]Garden Fresh Greens with Avocado Ranch Dressing[/caption]

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Vegan Brown Rice “Risotto” and Greens

I confess, I used to love cheese.  Back in the day, I enjoyed more than my share of pizza and I admit to having an affair with feta one summer.  Risotto was something that was easy to make and scrumptious to eat because it satisfied both vegetarian and non alike.  But that was then!  Cheese really hurts me now and anything that hurts just isn't worth having.  While I don't miss the cheese, I do love things with a creamy texture and that hint of salty goodness that pairs well with a great glass of wine and some fresh bitter greens.  I toyed around with a few different rices and quinoa (quinoa is a great high protein sub for brown rice in this dish, BTW, though you have to adjust the liquid way down), and my kids like the brown rice the best both for the slightly chewy bite and the nutty flavor. What's nice is that this pan of delight, when dished up and on the table is about $1 a serving when you have the greens fresh from the garden and tomatoes a plenty!  The indulgence is the Daiya, which at nearly $5.50 for 2 cups, is only a sometimes treat on my menu.  If you haven't tried Daiya yet I recommend it.  It is the first vegan cheese I've had that melts well and stretches and doesn't taste like glue!  The Daiya cheddar is versatile and adds that bit of cheesy umph that some dishes need. Great 1 cup add-in's per your palate: diced mushroons, peas, asparagus, red pepper, artichoke, minced kale, spinach Leftover risotto can be shaped into patties or croquettes, coated in gluten free breadcrumbs (or panko if you're not GF) and baked in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until crisp.  Truly lovely served with artichoke hearts and raw baby spinach.  Consider this a two-fer!  Enjoy! (and let me know what you think if you try it!) [caption id="attachment_408" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Vegan Brown Rice Risotto"]Vegan Brown Rice Risotto[/caption] Vegan Brown Rice “Risotto” (40 min, serves 4-6 as entrée w/salad) 2 cups brown rice 1 cup dry white wine 6 cups vegetable broth 1 onion, minced 1 clove garlic, minced 1 tsp olive oil 1 cup Daiya Cheddar shredded vegan “cheese” ½ cup almond milk pepper, to taste 2 fresh tomatoes, seeded and diced ¼ cup fresh sage or basil, minced Heat your olive oil in a large sauté pan and add the onion and garlic.  Stir to coat with the oil and let them work over medium low heat for a few minutes.  You will smell them and they will become soft without browning. Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat it with the oil, onion and garlic.  Turn the heat up to medium high and pour in the white wine.  Cook until the wine evaporates, then add 2 cups of broth.  Stir well and leave the pan for a few minutes.  You will be stirring frequently to ensure that the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom or burn.  However, this is not as labor intensive as traditional risotto because it doesn’t require constant stirring.  Plan on adding 2 cups of broth, stirring and checking the pan several times before the next broth addition.  You don’t want the rice to do dry in between additions of broth, so watch your pan and add the 2nd dose of broth while the rice is a bit saucy.  I checked the pan every 8-10 minutes and that was perfect, but you will need to get a handle on your stovetop to know what is the perfect balance for you. Add the 3rd and final dose of broth along with the daiya cheese and stir well to combine.  The cheese will make the sauce very creamy.  Daiya contains enough salt that you will not need to add additional salt. After 10 minutes or so, check the texture of the rice by tasting a bite.  If it is cooked, you can stir in the almond milk and shut off the heat.  If it is not, continue cooking for a few more minutes, check it again and then proceed with the almond milk. Season with pepper and serve topped with the tomato and herbs. *To make this a great meal serve this alongside a salad of fresh greens.  I especially love arugula and endive with this because they have such a bright bite to them! [caption id="attachment_409" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Arugula, Escarole, Endive, Basil and Tomato"]Arugula, Escarole, Endive, Basil and Tomato[/caption]

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Quick quinoa dinner + Peachberry Sorbet

After T-Ball tonight I needed to pull together dinner quickly.  I tossed 1 cup of quinoa into a pan with 2 cups of water and some broth powder.  Set that guy, covered, over a medium flame and let it boil for 10 minutes, then shut the heat off and let the steam finish it off to fluffy perfection.  While the quinoa was working I smashed 4 cloves of garlic, cut up about a pound of broccoli florets, trimmed up a pound of snap peas and thinly slice 2 carrots. [caption id="attachment_384" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Quinoa with Saucy Veg"]Quinoa with Saucy Veg[/caption] The veg hit a hot saute pan with 1/2 cup of veg broth.  Covered that guy too and let them steam.  In the downtime I mixed 1/4 cup of Bragg's aminos, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1/3 cup mirin, 1 Tbsp maple syrup, 1 tsp chili paste and 2 Tbsp tapioca flour.  After the veggies steamed for 10 minutes I threw in the sauce mixture and stirred until things thickened up. Within 15 minutes of starting I had fluffy quinoa topped with saucy steamed veg on plates and on the table.  Quick, easy and nutritious. Desserts in our home are often fruit based, as I'm sure you've caught on by now.  I do enjoy baking, but dessert creations are usually made up on the spot if the kids are still craving somthing for their bellies or their sweet tooth!  Whole fruits are so easy to freeze in sliced portions that there is really no reason why I can't whip up a refreshing, whole food dessert in about 3 minutes flat. Tonight I made a quick sorbet using some of our favorite flavors. Peachberry Sorbet (Serves 4-6 )
[caption id="attachment_383" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Peachberry Sorbet"]Peachberry Sorbet[/caption] 1 lb frozen sliced peaches 1 cup frozen raspberries 1 banana, fresh 1/2 cup soaked goji berries + their liquid (about 1/4 cup berries, 1/4 cup liquid)* - optional 2 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
*We need to start by soaking the goji berries if we're going to use them.  I usually have a batch of goji berries soaking in the fridge.  Goji's come dried like raisins.  I buy raw, sun dried gojis and rehydrate them in double the amount of water to the amount of berries.  I just throw them into a container and cover them with water and set them in the fridge overnight.  They plump up beautifully and can be eaten alone, with your favorite yogurt, tossed into your smoothies or my favorite... in a cup of green tea.  Goji berries are sweet, red gems that have a unique flavor.  They remind me of cranberry and raisins at the same time.  Interesting and unusual, but intensely good for you because of their high levels of antioxidants. Once we've got nice plump goji's we can proceed.  If your goji's aren't ready or you don't have any, you're still good to go without them.  No worries! Put everything in the Vitamix or food processor.  Process on medium speed while using the tamper to continually push down the bits of fruit into the blade.  Keep going until everything is blended.  If you're not using the goji berries and their liquid, you will need to add 1/4 - 1/2 cup of another liquid.  Good choices are water, orange juice or pear nectar.  You may have to stop and stir the mix because we're working with a good amount of fruit here and very little liquid.  When everything is blended and smooth serve it up quickly or spoon it into a freezer safe container and store it for an hour or so before serving.  If you are going to freeze this longer than and hour you will need to let it soften on the counter for 20 minutes before you try to scoop it and serve it.

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Tomato Vodka Sauce (gluten free vegan)

It's good to be saucy and a great vodka sauce is something that I've missed since giving up dairy many years ago.  Last week I bought a jar of traditional vodka sauce to toss with pasta when I needed a quick dinner for my kids.  Honestly, it wasn't what I intended to grab, but I was in a hurry and by the time I was unbagging the groceries on my kitchen table it was too late to change.  The good news was that my boys loved the tangy tomato sauce and I confess that it smelled heavenly while it was simmering on the stove.  Not being able to eat sauce like that with the cream and cheese isn't frustrating anymore, but it was enough to get me started with a trial pot of vegan vodka sauce.  I like the result and my boys proclaimed it "pretty darn good" compared to the jarred version they had last week.  The difference, according to them, is that my version is "cheesier."  So, next time, I might adjust the nutritional yeast down a bit for them.  I found the flavor to be tangy and well rounded, in large part, in my opinion, from the Shiraz rather than the vodka.  Perhaps if you experiment with tomato paste or another tomato product rather than using fresh tomato you can get a similar depth without the Shiraz.  Let me know if you play around with this one.  In the meantime, enjoy! [caption id="attachment_330" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Vegan Tomato Vodka Sauce"]Vegan Tomato Vodka Sauce[/caption] Vegan Tomato Vodka Sauce (yields 3-5 cups of sauce depending on the size of your tomatoes and how much liquid you add) 1 Tbsp olive oil 1 medium onion, minced (approx 1 cup of veg) 4 cloves garlic 4 medium carrots, peeled 4 large tomatoes Pinch of salt and pinch of pepper 1 sprig fresh basil or 1 tsp dried basil ¼ cup vodka ¼ cup red wine (I used a gorgeous 2009 Layer Cake Shiraz) ½ cup raw cashews ½ cup nutritional yeast ½ - 1 cup almond milk, as needed to thin sauce How to stir the pot:
  1. Let’s get our olive oil hot in a good size skillet.  Toss in the onions, salt, pepper and basil and give everything a stir to coat them with the olive oil.  We want the onions to get soft but not brown, so adjust your heat accordingly.
  2. While the onions are sweating pull out your Vitamix or food processor.  Put the tomato, carrot, garlic, nutritional yeast and cashews right in and blend them on low for a few seconds before blitzing them into a smooth liquid.  Set this mixture aside for a moment so we can bathe the onions.
  3. At this point, the onions should be tender and golden.  Carefully pour the vodka and red wine into the pan and use a nice wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan, removing any and all flavorful golden goodness from the bottom of the pan before we continue. 
  4. Add the tomato/carrot liquid to the pot and stir.  Turn the heat down to low, cover the pot and let everything simmer for 15 minutes. 
  5. Remove the lid and stir your sauce.  It should smell heavenly and be a soft orange color.  If the sauce has thickened too much, add anywhere between ½ and 1 cup of almond milk to get a thinner consistency.  Give another stir and taste.  Adjust salt and pepper if necessary.  Serve over your favorite pasta, rice or veg.  I served this batch over ravioli for my boys and over greens and raw carrot ribbons for me.  YUM! [caption id="attachment_331" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="tasty sauce on traditional ravioli"]tasty sauce on traditional ravioli[/caption]

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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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