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Roasted Red Pepper Relish

February 5, 2012

Happy Super Bowl Sunday!  Although the national holiday is notorious for greasy and calorie-laden dishes, there are healthier alternatives that do not require denunciation of all Super Bowl fare.  Here’s one suggestion for a veg-friendly and easy-to-make, roasted red pepper hors d’oeuvre from Kigh.

Roasted Red Pepper Relish

Ingredients:

2 organic red peppers, cut in half and seeds removed
1 tsp toasted sesame oil (or substitute olive oil)
1 white or yellow onion, cubed
1 tbsp vegan margarine (or regular)
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
sea salt & black pepper to taste

Instructions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350F.  Brush oil onto the skins of the red peppers and lay flat on a baking dish.  Bake peppers for approximately two hours. (In my oven it was just under 2 hrs, so check your peppers frequently towards the end).

My peppers were a little overcooked as you can see...

2.  Remove the roasted peppers from oven and allow to cool.

3.  Meanwhile, saute the onion in the margarine until the onion begins to turn translucent.

4.  Finally, puree the peppers, onion and remaining ingredients in a food processor until you have reached the desired consistency.

Enjoy the appetizer with fresh veggies, or a healthier tortilla chip such as these Black Bean chips I picked up at Whole Foods yesterday:

I was drawn to the new brand, Way Better Snacks for a couple of reasons.  First–the beautifully vibrant black bean image on the cover (that’s just good marketing) and two–the fact that their beans are sprouted.  Sprouting seeds actually helps your body to digest them, so I was pretty amazed to see a company actually take this step.  Check out the back label:

Good stuff.

However, the chips are still corn-based, so may not be the healthiest alternative out there (some brands such as Beanitos actually have black beans as their primary ingredient).  Nonetheless, they are still better than your average tortilla chip–and all things in moderation, right?

Now, who will everyone be routing for today? Although not a super football fan myself, I will be supporting the Pats in honor of Tom Brady.  However, I *confess* what I am most looking forward to is to seeing this lady perform in the halftime show!

Respect.

Raw Blueberry Cobbler

January 28, 2012

Blueberries are among my all-time favorite fruits–if not my favorite–so it’s fortunate that they happen to carry so many great health benefits as well.  Rich in reservatrol, blueberries help combat signs of aging, protect against free radical damage, fight disease and improve overall cardiovascular function.

Given my love of blueberries, after coming across this recipe I had to give it a try.  This raw blueberry cobbler is super simple to make, as well as it is super delicious (my mother will attest).

Raw Blueberry Cobbler

Crumble Topping:

  • 1 ½ cups shredded coconut
  • 1 ½ cups walnuts
  • ⅓ cup pitted dates
  • ½ tsp sea salt

Blueberry Filling:

  • 3 cups blueberries (thawed and drained if using frozen)
  • ½ cup pitted dates
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • ⅛ tsp cinnamon

Directions:

1.  To make the crumble topping, blend all ingredients except dates in a food processor.  Add dates in one at a time until you have a crumb-like consistency.

2.  Make the filling by blending 1 cup of blueberries with dates, lemon juice and cinnamon.  Then toss with the remaining 2 cups of berries.

3.  Spread the blueberry mixture in a square glass baking dish.

4.  Top with crumble topping and refrigerate to set until ready to serve.

Easy as well…pie!  Serve for a delectable breakfast or dessert dish.

As I’m always looking for good blueberry recipes, if you have any favorites I’d love to hear them in the comments!

Green Pina Colada Smoothie

January 18, 2012

For most of the country (sorry Seattle), it’s been a pretty temperate winter thus far.  Despite one sprinkling of snow across the Northeast last week–which seemingly dried up over night–there hasn’t been too much to complain about this winter season.  Unlike last year’s scourge of snowstorms, spawning such terms as #snowpocalypse and #snowmageddon. *shudder*

No, it would appear that the snow-gods have decided to give us a reprieve.  My Midwestern home state even enjoyed a balmy 72 degree high earlier this week.  I suppose it makes sense, however, given the unseasonably warm summer they had.

Now I know there are those who will lament the lack of wintry mix, and there is something to be said for the seasons– but I for one am not mourning this departure.  Bring on the warm weather (and winters), I say!  When it comes to temperature, the more tropic the merrier.  Thus today I thought I’d share with you this whimsical tropical smoothie, which I first saw promo’d at Whole Foods over the summer.

Green Pina Colada Smoothie:

1/2 pineapple, cut
2 cups spinach
1 cup coconut water
2 heaping tsp of coconut butter
6 ice cubes

Super simple, yet delicious.  The most challenging aspect to the whole process is cutting the pineapple, and even that isn’t nearly as difficult as it looks.

I had a lot of fun making this smoothie.  An interesting thing I learned about how to cut a pineapple (after googling it, natch) was that — after cutting the top off — you should leave it sitting upside down in your fridge for 20-30 minutes before de-skinning.  This allows the sugars to equally distribute throughout the pineapple, which are otherwise naturally more concentrated at the bottom.  Neat tip, eh?

Because we could all use a little more green in our winters.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go sip on one of these and pretend I am here:

What is your favorite tropical flavor and/or location?!

Garlic Lemon Kale Pesto

January 9, 2012

I was feeling a little under the weather this weekend, and wanted a healthy snack that would help whip my immune system back into shape.  Perhaps instinctually, I had a craving for kale–and that’s when it struck me that I needed to make a garlicky lemon kale pesto!

Kale possesses powerful anti-inflammatory and detox properties, counting chlorophyll and other phytonutrients among its many immune-boosting benefits.  Furthermore the presence of vitamin C, vitamin A, and zinc help fight infection by increasing the body’s production of antibodies and white blood cells.

Garlic also has many antiviral benefits.  The natural antiseptic contains the antioxidant Allicin, which when activated works to destroy free radicals and eliminate toxins.

I had tried making this recipe once before, and it came out too lemony.  With a few modifications, however, this time I think I got it just right!

____________________________________________________________________

GARLIC LEMON KALE PESTO

Ingredients:

1 bunch of organic kale, washed and de-stemmed
1/2 cup cashews
2 garlic cloves, chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon
zest of 1/2 lemon (about 1 tsp)
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Instructions:

1.  Blend all ingredients except oil in a food processor (or high-speed blender).

2.  Add in olive oil and pulse to combine.

The end result was a fabulously tasty and nourishing pesto, possessing just the right amount of garlic and lemon.  I think fresh basil would be a good addition as well.

Yes, that is a bandaid on my pinky. Yes, I cut my finger zesting the lemon--and it was well worth it!

The sauce can be enjoyed with the likes of veggies (I’m partial to carrot sticks), flax crackers, wheat pasta, or what have you.  However you enjoy it, trust me that your body will thank you.

Pumpkin-Chocolate-Chip Macaroons

January 1, 2012

Bonne Année!  Hope everyone had a good time ringing in the new year last night.  My first entry of the new year (and last installment of the holiday dessert posts) is a recipe for a pumpkin and chocolate infused macaroon.

I first made this recipe a few weeks ago for a holiday party, and it was so easy and delicious that I decided to make it again for the New Year’s Eve celebration I attended.

Pumpkin-Chocolate-Chip Macaroons

Ingredients:

2 heaping cups shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup almond flour
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup maple syrup (or sweetener of choice)
1/3 cup dark chocolate or carob chips
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/8 tsp sea salt

Yields 25-30 cookies

(Using my dehydrator for the first time!)

Instructions:

1.  Mix the coconut, almond flour, chocolate and spices in a large mixing bowl.

2.  Whisk together the pumpkin, oil, vanilla, and maple syrup.

3.  Combine wet and dry ingredients, and mix together with hands until doughy.

4.  Scoop in tablespoon-sized amounts onto lined tray.  Dehydrate at 115 degrees for 6-8 hours.  If using an oven, try baking at 250 degrees for 35 minutes.

The macaroons were a big hit at both gatherings. At one of them, a friend overheard a guest exclaiming to the host how good they were and asking what was in them! Needless to say, it was a proud moment for me.

Here’s to a happy and healthy year ahead!

Dreamy Dairy-Free Baked Fudge

December 30, 2011

Whether you follow a plant-based diet or just feel compelled to put a healthier spin on an old classic, you NEED to try this recipe. No, really.

You see before this recipe, in my spirited but still limited experience with vegan baking I had yet to produce a dairy-free dessert that was pleasing to both herbivores and dairy-lovers alike.  This creation, however, which is derived from Nada’s blondies recipe at onearabvegan, changed all that.

Although you would never know it, the primary ingredient of this recipe game-changer is chickpeas. With dates substituting as a natural sweetener, it also just so happens to be sugar-free!

     Yum.

Ingredients:

1.5 cups chickpeas (drained and rinsed if using canned)
1/2 cup date paste (instructions to follow)
1/3 cup dark chocolate or carob chips
1/4 cup almond butter (or other nut butter)
2 heaping tsp ground flaxseed
2 tsp of vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon
1 level tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
pinch of sea salt
pinch of nutmeg and cloves (optional)
1/2 cup toasted walnut pieces
2-3 large pitted dates, chopped

Steps:

  1. Toast the walnuts for 8-10 minutes in your oven at 350 degrees (optional step).
  2. Create date paste by blending 7 medjool dates with 1-2 tsp of water until smooth.
  3. Mix in the remaining ingredients with the paste–except for the walnuts and chopped dates–in a food processor or Vitamix. Once the mixture is smooth, add in the walnuts and dates and pulse to combine.
  4. Spoon the mixture into a greased or non-stick brownie pan, and bake at 220 degrees for about 30 minutes.*
  5. Cut into squares and allow to cool.

*Confession:  The original recipe called for a baking temp of 220 degrees…CELSIUS.  In my haste I forgot that Nada is actually from the UK, hence the temperature differential. Ahem. That would explain why my baked creation had more of a, ehrm, baked fudge like consistency.  That was just fine with me though, as I have fond memories of baked fudge in my teenage, pre-vegan days.  However if you prefer a crispier brownie, try baking at 430 degrees for 20-25 minutes and see how it goes!

Serendipitous much? I’d say so.

Chocolate Kale Treets & “Hail Merry” Macaroons

December 27, 2011

Happy holidays everyone! Hope you had a splendid Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus, or whichever special day it is that you celebrate this time of year.  I had a grand time baking up an array of dairy-free desserts for various holiday activities this year, the recipes for which I plan to disperse here throughout the week.

First up is a dessert-like rendition of the savory kale chip I posted recently.  To my delight, they just happened to turn out oh so christmas-ey.

My chocolate kale christmas tree!

There are several recipes for chocolate kale chips on the net – but the one I found most inspiring comes from cupcakes and kale.  Note that this recipe requires you to ornament your kale with the coating before laying it out on the pan!

Chocolate Coating Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp virgin coconut oil
  • 4 tsp maple syrup (or sweetener of choice)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp shredded unsweetened coconut

Steps:

  1. Wash and dry 1 bunch of kale (Lacinato Kale resulted in the xmas tree effect).
  2. Prepare the coating by melting the coconut oil first (easily done by placing dish with coconut oil in a larger bowl of hot water). Then stir in the vanilla and maple syrup, and whisk in the cacao powder. Make sure there are no clumps, and fold in the shredded coconut and chia seeds.
  3. Coat the kale in a large bowl, using your hands or a spatula.
  4. Spread the leaves on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  5. Bake at 225 degrees for 40-50 minutes, flipping the leaves around the 25 minute mark. Alternatively, you could try using the convection oven (or a dehydrator if you own one!).
I love the vivid green imagery.

These ‘sweet’ chips were truly delicious.  Only caveat is that they tasted much better fresh– a little soggy the next day sadly.  I’m wondering if this holds true for chips made in the dehydrator… fortunately I will get to test this out SOON, seeing as Santa decided to grant me with my number one gift wish!! :]

I promise to report back later.  Meantime, I want to leave you with a recommendation for one of my favorite dessert products — Hail Merry Macaroons (swoon).

Hail Merry products are sold in Whole Foods, the macaroons available in both blonde and chocolate flavors. And if for some reason you’re not feeling the holiday cheer, believe me these bite-sized pieces of heaven will have you singing songs of exultation in no time.

Ingredient list: organic shredded coconut, natural almond flour, organic cold pressed coconut oil, organic maple syrup, raw Madagascar bourbon vanilla, sea salt

I also love their logo and slogan – feed your body royally.  Indeed.

Q:  How was everyone’s holiday? Did you feed yourself royally this year?!

Persimmon Buckwheat Cereal avec Hemp Milk

December 18, 2011

For those who didn’t know, it’s persimmon season!  And don’t be ashamed if you didn’t.  I myself did not fully understand the rawsomeness of a ripe persimmon until this year.  Fortunately, this oversight was remedied this fall and now I am a persimmon proselyte.

Hachiya Persimmons on display at my local Whole Foods.

Persimmons are in season from October through February.  The most common types are the hachiya variety, and their smaller, firmer fuyu cousin.  The former are astringent in nature because of their high tannin content, and must be fully ripe in order to eat.  You’ll know hachiya persimmons are ripe when they become soft with a jelly-like texture (otherwise, prepare your lips to pucker!).

Since my newfound persimmon appreciation, I have been experimenting with different ways to enjoy them.  Inspired by pure2raw’s kiwi buckwheat cereal with hemp milk recipe (not to mention amazing photography), I decided to try a variation of the cereal using fresh persimmons.

Ingredients:

(yields 2 servings)

  • 1 cup raw buckwheat groats (soaked for a few hours and rinsed well)
  • 1-2 ripe persimmons (I used a peeled hachiya)
  • hemp milk (store bought or see recipe below)

Hemp Milk Recipe:

1 cup shelled hemp seeds
3 cups filtered water
3-4 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp xanthan gum or sunflower lecithin (optional ingredient for a smoother texture)

Directions:  Blend all ingredients until smooth.

Cereal Steps:

1.  Soak raw buckwheat groats (available in bulk at most health food stores) for at least 4 hours (to enhance their digestibility).  Rinse thoroughly to eliminate any viscosity.

2.  Pour about 1/2 cup hemp milk or as much as desired over the groats.

3.  Top cereal with persimmons or fruit of choice (and sprinkle with a little cinnamon).

Although I am a diehard oatmeal fan, this was actually my first time experimenting with buckwheat.  However, I decided it was time to branch out and mix up my breakfast routine.  And boy am I glad I did.  I loved the texture of the groats.  They add a nice nutty flavor, in addition to all the nutritional benefits.

Contrary to popular belief, buckwheat is not a cereal but actually a fruit seed (related to rhubarb!) — rendering it a good choice for those with wheat allergies.  Buckwheat is an excellent source of manganese, as well as a good source of protein, magnesium, dietary fiber, and copper.  I can see these grains becoming a regular part of my breakfast routine!

For the Love of Lulu’s Chocolate

December 14, 2011

In keeping with dessert-themed entries this week, this evening’s post will be a review of one my favorite chocolate bars — Lulu’s Chocolate.  This post has actually been a longtime coming, as I’ve been meaning to praise the wholesome rich goodness of these chocolate bars for some time now.

I first discovered Lulu’s chocolate back in April (in the pre-blog days), on the shelves of a health food store in San Francisco.  How do I remember the date you ask?  More to come on that later…(although does one ever really forget LAFT– love at first taste?).

Wrapped in ornate, gold packaging and an eye-catching label, I was immediately drawn in and intrigued; add in the fact that it was 78% cacao and vegan, and I was sold.  As a dark-chocolate connoisseur, I immediately took it upon myself to take home and evaluate this proprietary blend of “Raw Love.”

The organic and fair trade ingredients consists of:  cacao, coconut palm sugar, vanilla bean,                    sea salt & LOVE.

Upon sampling the bar, I could indeed attest that the handcrafted chocolate has some kind of magical, “love” component.  It was truly one of the most palatable pieces of chocolate my taste buds have ever met.  No doubt this has to do with the bar’s high-quality ingredients, such as the pure vanilla bean (no extract), coconut sugar (a nutrient-rich natural sweetener derived from the sap of palm trees), and of course raw cacao.

Lulu’s chocolate originated out of a visit to Hawaii, where Lulu — creator and practitioner of raw chocolate alchemy — was inspired by the taste of raw cacao and moved to share her passion with others.  After a period of experimentation and a successful Burning Man camp, her business was borne.

Lulu’s chocolate comes in 6 different flavors– Raw Love, Sedona Spice, Maca Love, Chocolate Maca Chunk, Aztec Crunch and Smoked Sea Salt Almond.  Although I have tried nearly all the flavors by now, “Raw Love” remains my favorite (I am a loyalist at heart).  I should also mention that for dark chocolate, the caloric content is remarkably low, with only 116 calories and 8g of fat in the 28oz bar.

So how did I remember the date of my introduction to the raw chocolate?  Well, I didn’t…until I revisited my electronic receipt that is.  The only fault I could find with Lulu’s bars initially were their lack of supply in stores.  Thus, I promptly went online and ordered a package of these elusive bars to be delivered chez moi.  Naturally it would’ve been spring…a time for raw lovers.

“So Delicious” Coconut Milk – Holiday Edition & Sugar Free Vanilla

December 13, 2011

During a recent visit to Whole Foods, I was delighted to discover this holiday edition of So Delicious Coconut Milk.  Although I generally try to stay away from sweetened dairy-free milk, I simply cannot resist anything with the words “Mint Chocolate” (a potent combination indeed).

The verdict?  Pretty good.  A little on the sweet side, but that’s to be expected with the cane syrup.  All in all this drink is the perfect solution for those looking for a healthier way (sans Starbucks) to satisfy their mint-chocolate beverage fix this holiday.  And at 50 calories per serving, it’s hardly an indulgence.

Ingredient list:  Organic coconut milk (Water, Organic coconut cream), Organic dried cane syrup, Cocoa, Natural flavors, Sea salt, Carrageenan, Guar gum, Locust bean gum, Reb A (Stevia extract), Monk fruit.

On the same visit, I also decided to try the So Delicious Sugar-Free Vanilla flavor.  Although I used to love this brand (formerly known as Soy Delicious) back in the day when I was a soy-milk addict, the emergence of their coconut, soy-free version managed to escape me for years.

Shame, I didn’t know what I was missing!  Their branding couldn’t be more accurate here, as their blending of dairy-free milk is TRULY delicious.  I love the vanilla flavoring, and despite the fact that it’s sugar-free, it has just the right amount of sweetness due to the presence of stevia and monk fruit (natural sweeteners).  It’s also fortified with vitamins such as B12.

The creamy coconut milk comes in a few different flavors, so you can pick up whatever suits your fancy!