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Here’s the recipe I promised!

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The almond bars that I raved about earlier? Here’s the recipe! No pictures, sorry, we gobbled it up!

Almond Bars

1 cup almond flour (Bob’s Red Mills is okay)

2/3 cup vegan sugar

1 flaxseed gel (1 TBSP flaxseed meal + 3 TBSP cold water)

1/2 tsp anise extract (I used my homemade one)

confectioners’ sugar for dusting (Whole Foods has a corn-free one, made with arrowroot powder)

1.) Preheat the oven to 350º, and lightly grease the bottom of a 9×9 pan with olive oil. Dust the bottom of the pan with a bit of confectioners’ sugar.

2.) Mix almond flour and sugar in a bowl. Be sure it’s evenly mixed. Add the flaxseed gel and anise extract. Mix well.

3.) Put the batter in the pan, you don’t have to spread it perfectly : it will melt. Sprinkle confectioners’ sugar on the top.

4.) Bake for 20 minutes.

5.) It WILL be tough getting out, but you can do it with a metal spatula! Or try with foil on the bottom of the pan and take it out, to make it easier. Makes 16 pieces.

Suggestions made by my cousin: dip in coffee, and you will positively SWOON!

Epicurious’ gift to us!

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Coming up with an idea for a meal can be difficult, especially if you’re looking for a vegan dish. That’s also gluten-free. And soy-free. Oh and corn-free too. Oh boy, am I asking for too much here?

This is why I LOVE the Epicurious app for iPhone. LOVE it. What other apps do I adore? Whole Foods, since it offers a lot of gluten-free options. Hello Vino for wine pairings. Can’t go wrong with that!

So while I was browsing Epicurious because we both were getting a bit antsy about what to make. I found one that we both gravitated toward to. Braised Eggplant and Peppers. Ooooo, sounds tasty, does it not? And it’s in the season too! I love finding ways to cook eggplants. It’s a good source of folic acid, potassium, along with many other vitamins and minerals. Not only that, but it also helps combat free radical cells. Makes you want to eat eggplants, doesn’t it?! That’s only the purple squash-look-alike vegetable. There’s also the red pepper, having three times more vitamin C than an orange! Now, that’s something I didn’t know before. LOTS of antioxidant lycopene (a type of carotene), helping reduce certain types of cancer.

Okay, all of these benefits makes me want to go back and eat some more!

Go and make it yourself: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Braised-Eggplant-and-Peppers-278

A beautiful eggplant and red pepper dish

I made a few modifications, since we didn’t have everything on hand. No fresh cilantro meant half the amount required, dried. We used Kalamata olive oil, which has a richer flavor, and is meatier than regular olive oil. Something about it just makes you want to say “That’s olive oil!” My boyfriend insists on using only Kalamata olive oil, and for good reason too. He tasted it for the first time in Greece, where it originated and never had any desire to go back. I can see why. It’s not that much more expensive, and often is the same price. If it’s a few dimes more, it’s worth the purchase. And please buy it in glass containers only, please. Something about oil has the ability to draw out chemicals from the plastic. Gross.

So that recipe? Supposed to be an appetizer, or a side dish. We served it to ourselves with two avocados sliced up, and bread on the side for the boyfriend. We were MORE than satisfied! The onions turned almost pasta-like for us. The consistency. Also the turmeric was the perfect addition to the dish. I can see it being more of a complete meal if you served it atop brown rice or quinoa. Alone, it had the sensation of being a chunky soup. Which I LOVE.

For those who are very visual, it is an eye-pleaser with all of the colors! Purple, red, yellow and the AROMA! Just stirring the pan heightened the anticipation. I couldn’t wait to try it. And it was more than worth it. Sure, there’s a bit of prepping beforehand, but I’ll do it again. Definitely.

Oh, the lemon juice? Just squeeze one fresh lemon, and it will be the amount the recipe calls for.

How do you find your recipes?

Ps. An interesting tidbit about eggplant:

“Eggplant is richer in nicotine than any other edible plant, with a concentration of 100 ng/g (or 0.01 mg/100g). However, the amount of nicotine from eggplant or any other food is negligible compared to passive smoking.[11] On average, 20 lbs (9 kg) of eggplant contains about the same amount of nicotine as a cigarette.”

-Wikipedia

A “say no to smoking” website says eggplants help reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Fascinating!

Ice cream using only bananas?!

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A dear friend of mine sent me this recipe to try. It was for ice cream, using only one ingredient: bananas. I’m not kidding. Only bananas. It was so different, yet so simple, that I just had to try it.

I mean bananas alone is full of essential vitamins and minerals, especially potassium. It’s a super fruit in my opinion (and my boyfriend’s. He has to have one everyday and does not understand why others don’t do the same!). Not only is it filled with goodness, but it has natural sugar which tastes SWEET! In fact, people use it as substitutes for sugar in various recipes.

But alone, to make ice cream? No milk, no sugar, nothing else. Really? I was dubious, I have to admit that.

Ice cream made with bananas

But I cut up the bananas, and stored it away in a Pyrex container in the freezer. Then today, I put some in my food processor. I have to say, as lame as this sound, I truly was amazed! The texture literally became ice cream like. As I scooped it up into a small bowl, I took a taste. Yes, it tastes like banana, but it was very subtle for some reason. I guess freezing has something to do with it? But regardless, it was “ice cream”!!! I added chocolate chips, just  cause. And I giggled as I ate the bowl of ice cream, while my sister peeled a banana and chomped away. We both were eating the same thing, yet it was so different!

This is a type of ice cream that most people can have! Provided that they are not allergic to bananas, but there’s NO other allergens in it! And this is probably ideal for diabetes. I’ll try it again with cocoa powder or a bit of peanut butter as the link suggests! Check it out at http://userealbutter.com/2010/08/12/single-ingredient-ice-cream-recipe/

Power to bananas.

A No-Meat Sandwich fit for royalty

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I wanted a sandwich. Bad. And I wanted to use eggplants and beets. I had just seen recipes about how to use beets in sandwiches, which intrigued me. After hearing raves from my boyfriend, I decided it was time to try that myself.

Beets and eggplants drizzled with balsamic vinegar

So I began chopping away the purple vegetables. Seeing the beets all sliced delighted me, for I was watching rubies unfold before me. There is something absolutely stunning about beets. Just slicing it had me in awe of this beautiful root vegetable. The color is so rich, and it leave traces of pink juice everywhere it touched. For a vegetable, it is just pretty. It truly is amazing, how it helps combat cancerous cells, both preventing and reducing with betanin pigments. It has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and detoxification properties. You can read more about this on http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=49 or other various websites.

Upon seeing the rubies from the grounds, I was excited about my sandwich. After putting the vegetables under broil for approximately 10-12 minutes, I took it out and put my bread under the broil as well. I love it when it’s crispy. There’s nothing better than a toasted sandwich when you’re in the mood for it! While everything was cooking, I was sauteing a yellow onion, watching it caramelize. It’s amazing how in its raw form, I’m very resistant to eat it. And it makes me cry! I’m sure you all know how painful it can be cutting onions, but I’ve heard that there are tricks to prevent this. If you know of one, please share! The sugar in cooked onions just makes me want to smile whenever I add it to a dish.

Now everything was ready! So the assembly begins. Bread, eggplant and beets alternating, onions and silvered fresh sage from my garden. Then I pressed it all down with the second piece of bread. As I sat down with it before me, I prayed, “Please God, let this taste good.” It looked heavenly, but to have it taste mediocre would have been a huge letdown. Then I took my first bite.

A sandwich made for royalty of the land

I closed my eyes.

And chewed.

My eyes were still closed as I kept on chewing.

Then after finally swallowing, I looked down at my sandwich and went “Wow!” and eagerly reached for another bite. I even made another one the next day. If you want to give me jewels, don’t buy me rubies from the mines, but rubies from the soil!!!

Now, while this sandwich is entirely vegetarian, it is not vegan due to the bread I used. Being limited due to my food issues, I cannot have the majority of gluten-free bread, so I used a favorite of mine that has never failed me: Against the Grain Gourmet. Their original baguette was perfect for this, although I can see how the rosemary flavor would complement this.

A salad for breakfast!!!

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There’s nothing like fresh vegetables, are there? Well… maybe fresh fruits? Ooo, a combination of both? YUM! Sounds like my kind of dish! After eating a salad that my boyfriend made for breakfast the other day, from this wicked cool website: http://www.nomeatathlete.com/ . Chickpeas, blueberries, celery, cantaloupes, silvered almonds with a vinaigrette made from fresh strawberries, rice vinegar and honey. You can substitute the honey for agave, for a vegan meal. I LOVED it. It was so fresh and seemed radical to me. The chickpeas? It was subtle. The spinach for breakfast? A kick-start to my day.

So for breakfast today, I wondered what to make for myself. Oatmeal wasn’t an option, and frankly, I can only have so much of it. So I looked in the fridge to see what we had. You could say I used that recipe as an inspiration for today. It tasted great, even though it may sound simple. Sometimes the best things in life are like that!

Breakfast today composed of baby spinach, blueberries, almonds, a healthy sprinkle of flaxseed meal (I need my omega-3, fiber and lignans: those are antioxidants that helps fight cancer. Two tablespoons of flaxseed meal gives you the same fighting power of 30 cups of fresh broccoli!), and rice milk. Almost like a green, mean and vegan cereal! Popeye would be proud, although I have to say this is much more appealing than a can he consumes on a regular basis.

My own version of breakfast salad

Having a vegan meal just makes me feel energized, ready to start my day! I have only eaten what’s healthy for my body, and nothing more. Vegan salad, and milk? That doesn’t make sense, right? The milk you see in the picture is actually coconut milk, certified vegan! There’s also rice milk, if I want. But soy milk and almond milk are out for me, due to soy. I haven’t tried hemp milk yet, so I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

Why go on a vegan diet? That is a personal decision, and I’m not saying everybody should go on it. It’s most likely a temporary decision for me, to give my body a break from the massive amount I’ve been consuming (I’m a cheese fiend!). I had gotten to the point where every time I took a bite, I felt nauseous. So I knew it was time to take action. As of today, it has been three weeks (honey is still something I’m unsure about. I’ve been reading about whether it is vegan or not. The controversy lies in the issue that honey comes from bees. Some says it’s okay because they don’t physically produce honey, but make it. However a lot of places use smoke to clear the hives, which can harm the bees. My question is this: what if you buy from a local beekeeper who uses humane approaches? Would that count? I only get my honey from them anyways, since corporate sometimes feed their bees high fructose corn syrup. GROSS.)

And if you’ve read my blogs, you know I love ice cream. As a vegan, ice cream is out. Sorbet is in, which is more than fine by me! Lemon basil, by the way, is AMAZING. The first bite I took just…. knocked my socks off (okay, it was the summertime, so I’ll say flip-flops). Juice from a dozen of fresh lemons, two cups of packed basil grown in my garden, and the combination was just… it made my taste buds sing. The stars seemed brighter that night.

So, my point is … my sister-in-law and I decided to try making a vegan version of ice cream using coconut milk. The canned milk would replace the heavy cream, and the shelf stable version would act as the regular milk. By adding flaxseed meal in place of eggs, it seemed to work! We’re still experimenting with the flavors. So any ideas or suggestions would be great!

I. Love. Food.

What am I going to eat camping?!

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I was looking forward to spending a weekend in Acadia with my sister. It’s a BEAUTIFUL national park up in Maine, which everybody should visit! Check out http://www.nps.gov/index.htm for more parks, sites and monuments all over America to check out. It’s amazing what America has to offer!

But one thing had me worried. . . what was I going to eat? I’ve been trying to go vegan for about two weeks now, and I’m really enjoying it. I feel so much better. But camping? I can’t exactly bring an entire kitchen with me, now can I? Either it had to be easily prepared over campfire or a camp stove, or come already made. So I fretted over the menu, nearly forgetting about the point of the trip. To spend time with my sister in a beautiful park, seeing what Maine has to offer. Oh boy, did it have a LOT!

As I thought about it, I realized that I had one factor playing in my favor, we were car camping. Sure, the campsite was approximately 300 feet away from the cars, but we could bring and keep a cooler in there. Score! That opened up a world of choices for me. So I decided to make everything at home, except for breakfast on Sunday morning. That meant I had Friday and Saturday taken care of. And I have to say, I think I did a decent job. As anybody know, for people with food allergies, you have to plan ahead. Especially when you camp. It made the trip so much more enjoyable!

So on Thursday evening, I made pasta salad, chickpeas spiced with tamarind spinach salad, teff muffins and put together the needed ingredients for the breakfast on Sunday. I also gathered fruits and other snacks such as dried cranberries, dried pineapples, and vegetable chips for my sister. Feeling satisfied with the menu, I went to bed, but not before telling my sister that she needs to be sure to eat a hearty breakfast before the long drive.

On Friday morning, we woke up, raring to go! After eating breakfast, I took everything out of the fridge and put it in the cooler, with other nonperishable items in a bag. Now we were on our way. We agreed beforehand that we were content with rice cakes, peanut butter and dried cranberries for lunch. It was both light and filling (peanut butter never fails to do so!). It was the perfect start for us, sitting by this intriguing bridge in Bucksport, ME, overlooking the water, munching away on our treats.

Tamarind spiced chickpea with spinach

But dinner was amazing. The tamarind spiced chickpeas salad with spinach was exactly what we wanted, and it didn’t require any prepping or cooking, so we were able to sit on the rocks at the Seawall picnic area, in awe of the beauty before us. The rocks, the waves, the open water, the evergreen, mountains and islands far away. Talk about a dinner and show! My sister and I were delighted to eat the tasty meal as we took in the sights. I found the recipe on Whole Foods’ website, and I highly recommend it. It’s meant to be served hot, but it tastes great cold too! Check it out at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/1768

For dessert, we had fruits. YUM!

 

Teff muffins with bananas for breakfast!

On the following morning, we were prepared to tackle the day with teff muffins and a banana. Now the muffins were DELICIOUS! Gluten-free, corn-free, soy-free AND vegan! Yup, I swear. I got the recipe off Bob’s Red Mills bag of teff flour and adapted it so I could have it. It was actually surprisingly easy to make. Instead of eggs, I used flaxseed gel (1 egg = 1 TBSP flaxseed meal + 3 TBSP cold water). Teff has a lot of protein, which is great considering we were eating vegan meals all weekend. It’s important to ensure that you’re getting all of your nutrients if you decide to omit something out of your diet.

More rice cakes with peanut butter and cranberries for lunch! I have to say it did taste great. It also gave us an energy boost needed to check out the visitor center in Acadia, then go to Echo Lake (a stunning watering hole in the middle of mountains on the island).

Pasta salad while enjoying Acadia's scenery

Dinner was a pasta salad that I made on Thursday evening. It was simply rice pasta mixed with cut up vegetables, raisins, grape seed oil, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? You can make any combination you want, really.

Now the view was INCREDIBLE! The trees were behind us, and in the distance we could see a few of the neighboring islands. Wow. Only if I could eat there every night.

Now breakfast the next morning was what had me nervous. The first step was getting the camp stove started. After tinkering with a few things, I was able to get it started! The pot already had the rice milk and quinoa in it. So I was able to get it started immediately.

The breakfast recipe actually comes from my boyfriend who uses it every time we go camping. It’s one of the meals I look forward to! Whenever we eat that, I know we’re out in the nature. I love it. But how to make it vegan? It’s cooked with dried milk. Mmm… Then it hit me!

At the store, I saw juice box versions of rice milk. Knowing that I wasn’t backpacking, so the weight wasn’t an issue. I thought, why not? It was a success!

Ingredients needed for the quinoa breakfast

Alex’s Quinoa Breakfast : Vegan Style

1 cup quinoa

1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

1/2 cup raisins (may be substituted with cranberries, or mixed)

2 TBSP cane sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

pinch of sea salt

two “juice boxes” of rice milk (Rice Dreams, original enriched, which adds up to 16 ounces).

 

1.) Put quinoa in one container, and the rest of the ingredients in another, mix well (NOT the rice milk! Leave it in the original box until you’re ready to use it).

2.) When you’re ready, put the rice milk (just poke the hole with a straw and squeeze it out) in the pan along with the quinoa. Cook as you normally would, cover, until you see the grain plump up and it starts to curl.

3.) Add the rest of the ingredients, and cook until the desired texture.

4.) Dine away!

It was a learning experience for me, planning the menu, seeing how everything tasted, and I have to say I think it was a success! Don’t let your diet stop you from going on that adventure you’ve always dreamed of.

If you have a dish that was a hit on a camping or backpacking trip, please do share! I’m always looking for more ideas!

An unpredictable eggplant!

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Being on a vegan kick, I’m always on the outlook for new ideas, new recipes and new flavors. But I’m not about to go shopping for every single meal. If I’ve got something in the pantry or the fridge, I’ll find a way to use that first. So last night, I opened the refrigerator and spied eggplants, along with a bunch of other vegetables. I couldn’t find a recipe to suit my taste or mood, so I realized it was time to get the creative juice flowing.

Oh boy, did it flow! Just cutting up the fresh produce got me excited, wondering what the end product would look like. Would the flavors explode in my mouth, or would it subtly send me swooning for more ? Or would I chalk it up to yet another recipe that just didn’t wow me? Oh the anticipation as I chopped, diced and squeezed what I had before me into a bowl.

I have to admit that as I prepared to take this dish out of the oven, I nearly lost it. Somehow I pulled the racks from underneath the casserole pan. So you can only imagine what a sight I was, when my mother walked in. I had both hands in the oven (I had mitts on!), half kneeling, half sprawled on the floor, wondering whether I should stick my arm in further to save the dish. I was paranoid about dropping the glass pan. Or burning myself. Fortunately we were able to save it, losing a few pieces to the fiery furnace. After we took a breather, my mother looked at me and shook her head. Why was I so willing to risk hurting myself, after all who cares about a glass pan? My response was simply this: I gotta know what it tastes like!

I just had to know.

Fresh mint, screaming to be used

And boy, was it worth it! Even my mother, who grew up not fond of eggplants or fresh mint was pleasantly surprised by this creation of mine. So, it can be rewarding when you just stand in your kitchen and try to come up with ways to use what you have! Sure, there’s going to be times where you’ll think, “what the heck did I just do?” Been there, done that. Had to dump a few dishes that way. Normally I prefer just eating it, even if it isn’t that great. But I’ve had a few that was just plain nasty. But this one… was delicious!

 

Eggplant-Cantaloupe Salad with Fresh Mint

1 eggplant, sliced and quartered

8 garlic cloves, minced (or 1 TBSP)

2 cup cantaloupe, chopped

3 jalapeno, diced

1 green pepper, diced

1/3 cup olive oil

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

juice of 1 lime

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 cup vegetable broth

1 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped, separated

The eggplant dish, all marinated and raring to go!

Chow time, baby!

1.) Combine olive oil, spices, juices, and broth in a bowl. Toss in vegetables, including mint (save 1 TBSP for later). Let it marinate for 30 minutes.

2.) Set the oven to broil, and set up the rack to the top position.

3.) Pour the content of the bowl into a glass casserole pan, and put on the rack. Divide the pan in thirds, so broil one 1/3 for 2 minutes, then move it to the center for another 2 minutes, and the last for an additional 2 minutes (so you can get the grilled taste without having to use the actual grill).

4.) Take it out, let cool briefly so it won’t burn your mouth. Add the remaining mint and serve with rice!

The first bite I took was delightful, the sweetness from the cantaloupe bursting in my mouth, with a hint of fire from the jalapeno and the sturdiness yet delicateness of the eggplant all merging together. I went back for seconds. I also had some leftovers today, cold. Still tasted great. I’m definitely making this again!

Now my next challenge is to make something that I can bring along on a camping trip. Oh the possibilities..!