Friday, November 22, 2013

Raw Cheesy Kale Chips

If it's possible to overdose on kale, you may find me clinging to life with drool streaming down my face very soon.  Since my return from Miami, I've been bravely tackling some dehydrator recipes that I previously found intimidating.  My favorite, and easiest by far, has been cheesy kale chips.  Kale is one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet, and also beautiful, in my opinion.  I just love the vibrant green color, so I prefer dehydrated to baked chips.  You could bake these, but they won't stay as crisp or colorful.  I don't really care how you make them, just make them.  And then eat the whole batch!

1 bunch organic kale
Juice of 1 lemon
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
Sea salt to taste

Start by breaking the kale into about 1-inch pieces.  Pour lemon juice and olive oil into kale pieces and massage until the kale is evenly coated.  Then, add the sea salt and nutritional yeast and toss.  Once that's done, just spread the kale chips onto dehydrator sheets, or just the trays without non-stick sheets, and dehydrate at 115 degrees for about 8 hours.  

This is what they look like before drying.

I've been prepping a batch at bedtime every night, and they're ready by morning.  You can't beat having a fresh batch of healthy, salty, cheesy chips to snack on at work.

...And when they're done.

This recipe takes a matter of minutes to prep, so why not add this nutritional powerhouse to your diet?  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Living the dream... Literally.

        Charlotte is quite the world traveler after being on ten flights in the last three months.

     This past Saturday, Miss Charlotte and I, along with my mom, set out on a two day adventure to southern Florida.  I recently decided that making raw food for myself was fun, but it wasn't going to afford me the ability to help others and work from home like I've always dreamed of doing.  I need more credibility and experience if I'm going to teach others the benefits of a high-raw and natural lifestyle.  Before I got pregnant, I had been toying with the idea of going to Living Light Culinary Institute to study all things raw, but now, with a baby, a full-time job, and a home to care for, moving to California for half of the year wasn't going to work.  I had to pursue other routes.  I started researching other raw chef certifications and found a few possibilities, but settled on the Living on Live Foods course offered by Alissa Cohen.  I have her book "Raw Food for Everyone" and love it.  Some friends gifted it to me for my 29th birthday. Alissa is pretty much a genius, so who better to learn from, right?  There are three levels of this course, and I, not being one who likes waiting, found the level one class being offered this month near Miami.  As it turned out, the instructor was none other than Alissa's own sister, Stacie Cohen.  I was so excited!  I knew this would be the life-changing experience that I wanted so badly.  
                                            The lovely Stacie, showing off our handiwork.

     After arriving late on Saturday and a three-hour rental car fiasco (thank you, Dollar Rental Car for overbooking by about five hundred people), we finally found an open store, bought bananas and water, and settled into our hotel.  Of course, I didn't sleep well due to my mind running a hundred miles per hour with thoughts of how amazing the following day would be.   I also had a sinking feeling that I had forgotten something... A feeling which had hounded me all day.
     When I woke up Sunday, I realized what the sinking feeling was all about... I had forgotten the flanges for my breast pump.  Oops!  Since my mom was there to care for Charlotte during my class, it was sort of important that she be able to feed the baby while I was gone.  You wanna talk about shear terror?  That's what the feeling was at that moment.  But thanks to Target opening early on Sunday, I was able to remedy the situation at 8am for $20.  
     So, at that point, we'd had a rental car issue, I was exhausted, and I'd forgotten very important items, but everything had worked out well.  These things always happen to me, but they seem to resolve in the best possible way, which I attribute to positive thinking. 
     Around 9:45 on Sunday morning, I kissed Charlotte bye, mom wished me luck, and I headed out for what would become the most awesome day of my life, aside from Charlotte's birth and my wedding.  
     As soon as Stacie opened the door, I felt like I'd known her my entire life.  She is the most warm and welcoming person, and made myself and Wendy, the other student, feel right at home.  Due to strange circumstances, she was teaching this class at her home instead of the kitchen she usually uses as a classroom. I felt so honored to be there.  Stacie is also a well-known raw chef, so to be in her private kitchen, using her own tools felt like something truly special.  
                        Myself, Wendy, and Stacie after a long day of beautiful food creation.
     After introductions and some basics about what raw food is and why we've chosen this path, we made our way to the kitchen for an epic day of the most incredible, but also simple, food.  We started with a mock-salmon pâté made from walnuts, and "refried beans" made from sunflower seeds.  I think part of what makes me appreciate raw food is how complex flavors can be created from simple ingredients.  It's all in how you balance them.  We created guacamole and stuffed it into marinated portobello caps.  She helped us make the most beautiful marinara sauce that we enjoyed over zucchini pasta and "raw-violi" made from sliced turnip and nut-cheese.  The tomato soup we blended was so easy, but also was delicious.  I think my favorite part of the day was making raw cheese from cashews.  I can't begin to understand how cashews, lemon juice, salt, and some herbs can come together tasting just like cheese, but it does!  
                                    Beautiful zucchini pasta with simple marinara sauce.

                                                 "Raw-violi" with nut cheese pesto.

     Lastly, we HAD to make dessert.  What better way to polish off such a wonderful experience than with the rich sweetness of a date-nut torte?  Within a matter of minutes, we had a delicious gourmet dessert.  
                                                Date-nut tart with cacao and coconut.

     When all was said and done, I had learned so much.  The greatest change, though, came in the form of confidence.  Since I started exploring raw foods, I've always been a bit intimidated by what I viewed as "complex" recipes.  Now, I feel like I can conquer anything. Stacie did an amazing job of explaining how flavors come together in the blender/food processor and how to mimic textures of cooked food.  I've always been a fan of Alton Brown because of how he explains the science behind his cooking, and Stacie is similar in that way. Everything made sense by the time we were done.
     It was scary and stressful traveling so far away for only two days with such a young child, but I'm so glad that I made the leap.  I'm now planning for my level two certification, and I couldn't be happier.  You see, I realized something on Sunday.  I felt so at-home in that kitchen, and I knew that's where I was meant to be.  It was the reassurance I needed to know that this is where I belong.  I know I'm on the right track.
     We didn't fly home until Monday night, so we were able to enjoy a little bit of the city and beach.  Here are a few highlights:

We had dinner with the Palm Beach Vegetarian Society (who welcomed us right into their private party and gave mom a vegan birthday cupcake), on Sunday night at The Garden Of Vegan.  I had the wrap sampler plate featuring toona-pate, living hummus, and curried plantain. It was perfect!  I paired it with a hibiscus-ginger tea.  Mom had the zucchini fettuccini and may have been converted to raw vegan right then and there! 
We visited the beach in Boca Raton Monday morning where it was 88 degrees, windy, and absolutely gorgeous!  Coming home to snow flurries was tough.

We enjoyed raw salads and wheatgrass-hopper juice at Juice and Java in South Beach before heading to the airport.

And we had to see the beach just one last time, near the Art Deco district of Miami.

Goodbye, Miami!  I hope to visit you again soon. 

     P.S.  People in Miami are beautiful.  I thought it was just that way on TV, but it's not.  Everywhere you look, half-dressed, very fit men and women are roller-blading or running down the street. I'm going to attribute that to the perfect weather and generally more health-conscious atmosphere.  What an awesome place Miami is!


Monday, November 4, 2013

Burger night? I can make that vegan!

I had a hankering.  It was calling to me, so of course, I answered.  I've never been a big "burger gal".  However, I have had a long love affair with hot sauce.  It started with craving chicken tenders and grew over the years to a slight obsession.  I've eaten it on just about everything... Tortilla chips, popcorn.  These days, as you know, I don't eat chicken, or any meat for that matter, but I still love my hot sauce.  Sometimes, I just want something spicy and crunchy on a sourdough bun with fresh vegetables topping it off. Is that too much to ask?  Enter the buffalo tempeh burger.  This is about the most simple vegan dish that won't have you slaving on the kitchen for hours.


     It starts with some plain tempeh from any grocery store.  Mine came from Trader Joe's, the greatest store in the world!  I just cut the slab in half and then sliced down the center to make two thin patties.  For the bun, I bought these gluten-free sourdough bagel buns from the frozen section of Kroger's Nature Market.  It was the first time I'd tried these, and I was not disappointed.  They even have that chewy texture that makes bagels so special.  
     Next, I sliced a shallot and one clove of garlic into small pieces and sautéed them in a bit of coconut oil, my go-to for any high heat frying.  


     While those were going, I just quickly marinated the tempeh in a small amount of Bragg's Liquid Aminos.  It gives the tempeh a slightly salty, umami flavor to mimic meat.  I also sliced a Cherokee Purple tomato from the garden and a couple of leaves of organic romaine.  


     It didn't take long for the shallot and garlic to start browning, at which point I removed them from my skillet and replaced them with the tempeh patties.  I added just a bit more coconut oil to keep them from burning.  The joy of using my Mammaw's cast-iron skillet is that it's almost non-stick without the nasty Teflon chemicals leaching into my food.  As soon as they were nicely browned on both sides, I set them to the side and toasted my "bun" in the same pan.  
     Once everything was cooked, I assembled my masterpiece.


     Now, what goes better with a burger than hot crispy fries?  With my oven preheated to 425, I just sliced a couple of small gold potatoes into strips, tossed them in olive oil, sea salt, garlic powder, and fresh black pepper. I spread them on my baking stone and within 15 minutes, I had golden, crispy, beautiful fries.  People like to spew the nonsense that white potatoes aren't good for you, but they're actually an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium.  Plus, as a nursing mom, I need the extra carbs or my milk supply will drop.  I've experimented with this, and it's definitely true for me.  
     Here you have it!  An American Classic with all the flavor and none of the guilt.  It really was delicious and, I think, quite nice to look at.  It was my first time making this, in burger form anyway,and I'll be doing it again very soon.  This could easily become a staple meal in this house.  


Friday, November 1, 2013

Who needs chicken? Buffalo tempeh with roasted red potatoes and kale/mushroom saute

The first of the month is always the busiest time for me at work.  Add to that my duties as "fill-in" for just about anyone who goes on vacation, and it's been a very hectic couple of weeks, today being the craziest of all.  After waking up an hour early because Charlotte had new sounds she wanted to practice, I knew it was going to be a very long day.  What I didn't anticipate was only getting to nibble some walnuts and an apple for lunch.  The avocado I had packed was a sad, brown bomb when  I cut into it.  I hate when that happens.  It felt perfect and the stem spot was bright green. Very deceptive.  Surprisingly, though, I didn't get all that hungry by the end of the day.  I suppose my supper fatty breakfast smoothie held me over better than I had expected.
     After picking up Charlotte and greeting a few trick-or-treaters at my in-laws' house, we made our way home and settled in for the night.  After nursing my baby girl and coaxing her to sleep, it was time to throw together some dinner.  I was really wanting something tangy and spicy, and because I missed out on lunch, I wanted something green.  You know me...  Greens are my thing!  I had bought some organic kale a few nights ago, so I dug that out.  Plus, I still had half a block of tempeh left over from last night's dinner.  I thought buffalo tempeh sounded like a great idea.  I just love that vinegary, hot, and smokey flavor.  So, I put my iron skillet on medium, sliced the tempeh about 1/4" thick, added a tablespoon or so of coconut oil to the pan, and sautéed the tempeh until it was crispy and golden.  I set that to the side and mixed up the sauce.  Basically, some Frank's Red Hot and lots of garlic powder.  I tossed the tempeh in the sauce, and called it "done".

      While the tempeh was cooking, I also had some red potato chunks roasting in the oven on 425.  I seasoned them with olive oil, sea salt, garlic powder, and rosemary.  Since I'm breastfeeding, I've noticed that potatoes tend to help keep up my milk supply.  I'm not sure of it's something in the potatoes themselves, or if it's just the increase in carbs, but something is working to my advantage.  I try to have oatmeal or potatoes every day for that reason.  Tonight's potatoes were done when they were just starting to brown.

      When I saw that the potatoes were getting close to done, I sautéed three cloves of garlic, 1/4 of a white onion, and about 4 ounces of  baby Bella mushrooms in a little coconut oil.  Once the liquid was almost gone, I added a bit of Bragg's Liquid Aminos (wheat-free soy sauce), maybe a tablespoon or so.  Lastly, I tossed in a whole bunch of chopped kale and stirred it around until it was bright green and tender.  It was tasting pretty good, but just for a little extra pizazz, I decided to juice a lime and pour that over it.  Finally, it was time to eat.  I'm not one to try and stick with a theme in my dinner, so this may seem a bit eclectic, but it hit all the spots.  All in all, dinner took about thirty minutes to prepare.

      So now, I'm sitting here typing this and sipping on an after-dinner vanilla Sleepytime tea with a dash of honey and coconut milk, and all is right with the world.  I'm looking forward to spending a calm weekend at home playing with Charlotte and the pups... And hopefully inventing some new recipes to share with all of you.  Have a wonderful weekend and eat your veggies!