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Quinoa Burgers with Greens and Chilled Curried Peach Soup

 I am so excited to share this meal with you!  My boys absolutely gobbled the burgers and each had several "sippers" of Curried Peach Soup.  The burger makes use of three of my weekly staples: quinoa, homemade hummus and kale; and the gorgeous organic peaches we picked up at the market this week really shine while boosting up Vitamin A, C and Potassium.  

Quinoa Burgers with Greens and Chilled Curried Peach Soup
Quinoa Burgers with Greens and Chilled Curried Peach Soup

Quinoa is such a superb seed!  Not only is it incredibly easy to prepare, versatile and yummy but it’s a powerhouse of protein, B vitamins, iron, zinc, potassium, calcium & vitamin E.  Here, quinoa shares center stage with the amazing chickpea, aka garbanzo.  The chickpea takes on a big role as a binder, but is so mild and creamy that the other flavors come through.  

I love that only one pot and one skillet are involved on the messy side of things (if you need to make the hummus, you’ll have the food processor to contend with as well).  But, this one take relatively little effort to get great results.  To make this guy your own, try changing the spices.  You can use another green in place of the kale or try combinations of herbs instead (parsley and cilantro, thyme and oregano, dill).  Finishing the patties with rice flour gives a light crust and makes for a pretty golden brown burger. Use your hands to mix things and you will soon get the feel for the right texture so you will be able to adapt to the ingredients you choose.  My hummus recipe is a stiff hummus, actually much more stiff than commercial varieties, so if you are using a store bought hummus you may need to add in the garbanzo flour or rice flour to aid in binding and reduce the moisture level. Quinoa Burgers (Makes 6 burgers) 1 cup quinoa + 2 cups water 1 Tbsp organic onion powder 2 cloves garlic, whole and unpeeled 1 cup homemade hummus (recipe below) 1/4 cup minced kale (about 2 leaves) 1 teaspoon Frontier All Purpose Seasoning or your favorite herb blend 1 teaspoon smoked paprika 2 Tablespoons Bragg Liquid Aminos 1-2 Tablespoons garbanzo bean flour or rice flour (as needed) Fresh ground black pepper Brown rice flour 1 Tbsp Olive oil Preheat a skillet to medium high heat and pour in the quinoa.  Lightly toast the seeds for a minute or two until they start to smell nutty but are NOT burnt.  Add in the 2 cups of water, onion powder and unpeeled garlic.  Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the water is absorbed.  Remove from the heat and fish out the garlic. Put your softened garlic onto a plate or cutting board and, with the edge of a knife, lightly press on the garlic to squish it out of the peel.  Add this back into the quinoa mixture. Add the hummus, kale, herbs, smoked paprika, Braggs and several grinds of pepper into the quinoa pot and mix well.  I like to use my hands for mixing because I get a good feel for the stickiness of the dough and can tell if things are binding together or if I am going to need to adjust with the bean/rice flour and/or water.  So, once the ingredients are incorporated take about ½ cup of the mixture and make a ball.  If you can shape it into a burger type patty without anything crumbling off or wilting over, then you have the right consistency.  If you can’t, and your mixture is too wet, sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of garbanzo flour over the mixture and stir it in.  If your mixture is too dry, try adding a teaspoon of water at a time and mixing.  We are looking to make a mixture that it neither too wet nor too dry.  We want moist. Continue adjusting until you get a patty that holds well on its own. [caption id="attachment_445" align="alignright" width="300" caption="ready for mixing"]ready for mixing[/caption] Divide the mixture into 6 equal bits and form into balls which you will then shape into ¼ inch thick patties. [caption id="attachment_444" align="alignright" width="300" caption="shaping and dredging"]shaping and dredging[/caption] Get your cast iron skillet hot over a high flame and coat it with the olive oil. Turn the heat to medium.  Lightly dredge the patties with some brown rice flour that you’ve put in a shallow bowl or plate.  Get your burgers into the skillet and cook for 5 minutes on each side or until you get some browning. Serve on your favorite bun or GF bread or set up a pretty plate with greens and fresh tomato and avocado.  I think a grainy mustard is a wonderful condiment for this burger, but you’ll find your favorite.   Homemade Hummus 3 cups cooked chickpeas ¼ cup tahini 3 cloves garlic juice of one organic lemon dash of salt and pepper 1 tsp ground cumin ½ tsp ground chipotle pepper (optional) Put all ingredients in your blender.  Pulse to combine and then blend until a smooth texture is achieved.  If needed, stream in a tablespoon or two of veg broth or olive oil to thin the mixture (this step is really dependent on the moisture level of your chickpeas and tahini, so it will vary). Flavor develops more after a day in the refrigerator, but this is totally great right out of the food processor.  Use half the batch for the quinoa burgers and enjoy the remainder with veggies during the week or as an accompaniment for salad, or thin it out with water or almond milk to make a luscious dressing/dip. ************************************************** My kids LOVE this soup!  It’s a great soup for teaching, actually, because each of the components tastes so different on their own.  Taste the ingredients one by one before putting everything into the blender and then taste the final product.  When combined, the flavor of this golden peachy toned creamy soup is a little sweet, a little spicy.  Chill for an hour or more before serving, but don’t keep it for more than a day as the color will go a funny orange and the peach flavor loses something. Chilled Peach Soup 4 organic peaches ¼ cup coconut flakes 1/2 cup water 1 teaspoon curry powder ½ tsp fresh grated ginger Wash and pit the peaches.  Put everything into the Vitamix and blend on low speed for 10 seconds.  Whiz on maximum speed for 30 seconds or until the coconut is thoroughly blended and the mixture is smooth.  Transfer to a bowl or container and chill for at least an hour before serving. Note: blender or food processor will work but may not yield a smooth texture.  If you don’t have a Vitamix, consider using ½ cup of prepared coconut milk instead of coconut flakes and water.


Lentil Sloppy Joes v.2

Lentil Sloppy Joes
Simplified and modified from version 1, but just as yummy!  Because I am in love with the new bottle of pomegranate molasses on my shelf, I had to incorporate it in this recipe.  It makes perfect sense because the flavor is both sharp and sweet.  Start to finish about an hour.  Try this if you want a warm, richly layered and flavorful, spice laden meal.  Serves 6-8.  Using you food processor or mad knife skills, mince the following: 1 large onion, minced 4 cloves garlic, minced 8 oz Portobello mushrooms, minced 1 large green pepper, minced (organic if possible)
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. [caption id="attachment_354" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="minced veg for sloppy joes"]minced veg for sloppy joes[/caption] Blend: 4 medool dates, pitted 1 can diced fire roasted tomato 1/2 cup Annies Organic Tomato Ketchup Blend these ingredients in the food processor until smooth.  Add the mixture into the pot and stir to combine. Add: 1 cup brown lentils (+ 1/2 cup if you don't use the red lentils below) 1/2 cup red lentils (optional, but they thicken the sauce in a way that the brown lentils don't) 3 cups water 2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses 1 tsp chipotle chili powder 2 Tbsp smoked paprika 2 Tbsp cumin 1 Tbsp cinnamon 1 Tbsp cocoa powder Stir the pot and simmer for 30 minutes until the lentils are till tender and the liquid is absorbed.  [caption id="attachment_353" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Lentil Sloppy Joes v2"]Lentil Sloppy Joes v2[/caption] If you're going old school, split the roll of your choice and toast both sides in a dry skillet.  Then slather some vegan mayo on the toasty pieces, top with a scoop of lentils and a piece of rice cheese or daiya shreds.  You can forego the bun and serve your sloppy lentil ragout on a plate with a side of steamed broccoli and a few big handfuls of fresh greens.  You can also pair a scoop of this goodness with a bowl of nutty brown rice or fluffy herbed quinoa or as a topper for polenta.  I can easily see stretching leftovers with the addition of some smoky black beans and corn on the cob.  Whatever you do, do it with love and enjoy every bite knowing that you are fueling your body well!  Make the meal even better --- don't forget your greens!


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!


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!


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!


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


Vanilla Chai Yummies

I had a long day yesterday that involved sitting in a conference room for a meeting from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.  The mere thought of the afternoon weighed like an elephant on my shoulders by the time 11 o’clock rolled around.  What eventually made the afternoon bearable was the Raw Revolution bar I nibbled on from time to time.  Chocolate Raspberry.  Let me repeat… Chocolate Raspberry.  And now imagine a little slab of raw goodness that is the color of a naughty chocolate bar with the flavor of super ripe raspberries and sinful chocolate ganache.  Normally I make snacks like this at home with my kids.  They are healthy, quick and much cheaper than commercial bars.  I haven’t made chocolate raspberry before, but we routinely make one with dates, cashews and a berry blend (my little guy calls them “Sweet Fruit Snowballs”).  A friend of mine was writing on facebook about enjoying a cup of homemade chai tea.  How I love chai!  What’s not to love, really?!  Got me thinking about making a raw bar or raw ball using chai spices.  I started imagining a blond ball speckled with fragrant Indian spices and studded with coconut.  Knowing me, as some of you do, you are aware that I am an info junkie.  So I started checking out some of my favorite web resources and I came across a few ideas for raw vegan macaroons and even one with a chai spice blend.  I played around with my food processor and my spice grinder and came up with something that is share worthy.  What I ended up with are perfectly sized nuggets of spiced coconutty perfection.  They are not flecked with spice as I envisioned because I started off with fine ground spices, but they are well spiced and studded with coconut!  The spice flavors definitely developed over night, so my suggestion is to make them one day and eat them the next if you can stand to keep your mitts off that long! Right, here you go!  I am also posting my recipe for Sweet Fruit Snowballs since it’s a perennial favorite in my household!  Enjoy. [caption id="attachment_137" align="alignright" width="300" caption="little mound of spiced coconut goodness"][/caption] Vanilla Chai Yummies (makes 30 tablespoon size balls plus a few teaspoons for tasting along the way) 12 pitted dates 2 cups shredded coconut, unsweetened 1 cup raw cashews 4 Tbsp agave nectar, maple syrup or honey 4 Tbsp melted coconut crème or coconut oil * 3 tsp spice blend (see recipe below) 1 tsp flaxseed meal *If you are keeping you snack raw go ahead and melt the coconut creme or coconut oil over a cup of hot water.  You put the product into a glass dish and let the dish rest in the water without getting the water in the glass dish, of course.  Stir, stir, stir and then remove.  It's about gently warming the raw product while keeping it raw.  If you aren't concerned about the rawness of the coconut creme or coconut oil then you can zap it in the microwave for a few seconds or melt over a double boiler. Blend all ingredients in a food processor until the mixture is evenly moist and will hold together when you press it.  Use a small ice cream scooper to make even tablespoon size balls or use a spoon to portion and then roll in the palm of your hands.  You can roll these guys in a little extra shredded coconut if they are sticky.  I didn’t need to do that.  Eat or chill and eat… yum!            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.      Sweet Fruit Snowballs (makes 36 teaspoon size balls) 12 pitted dates 1/2 cup goji berries 1 cup raw cashews 1/4 cup fresh cranberries 1 tsp agave nectar, maple syrup or honey 1 tsp cinnamon 1 tsp flaxseed meal 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, for rolling -- you may have coconut leftover depending on how much you press into the balls. Blend all ingredients in a food processor until a smooth-ish paste forms.  Roll tsp amounts of the fruit-nut mixture in the coconut.  Eat.


Changing up a Classic

So I approached today with an expectation that dinner would be quick and comforting.  What's more comforting on a winter day than a bowl of tomato soup, right?  Kids love it and it's a make in a flash kind of meal.  To spice things up and keep with this New Year's culinary theme I figured I would search for a tomato soup recipe from another land.  India came through big time and spice it up I did!

Sometimes the sound of a thing is endearing.  "Tamatar Ka Shorba" rolls off the tongue with so much more flair than "tomato soup."  I'll admit that I wasn't sure how my boys would respond, but they were charmed.  We pulled out a CD of Indian music and listened to these rich and interesting sounds as our kitchen burst into the pungent smells of ginger, cumin, coriander and garlic.  Truth be told, this soup doesn't look much different in the pot than my go-to tomato soup, but the smells are a complete sensory feast.

Now, normally I would make the boys fresh croutons or a grilled "cheeze" sandwich to dip in the soup.  Tonight I opted to try my hand at creating a gluten free naan.  Now, anyone who has ever baked gluten free, egg free, dairy free bread knows that the texture of the dough is entirely different than traditional dough.  Was I skeptical when I had to sort of smear the dough onto my baking stone... yes.  Was I pleasantly suprised with the crisped crusts and slightly puffed rounds of baked goodness... yes!  I am not sure I can call it naan, but what I made definitely qualifies as a tasty gfv yeasted flatbread and we all gave it a thumbs up.

Right, here's the roadmap:
Tamatar Ka Shorba - Indian Tomato Soup

3 cups of diced fresh tomato or 28 oz canned fire roasted tomato
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated -- about 2 inches of fresh ginger will do it
1 Tbsp garlic, smashed and minced -- about 3 cloves
1 Tbsp garam masala
2 Bay leaves -- if you've never worked with bay before, you leave the leaf whole, drop it in the soup for flavor and remove it before serving
1 Tbsp cilantro
1 tsp cumin seeds 
1 Tbsp Sugar (optional) -- I didn't need the sugar, but the soup does have a slight sour twinge so you might
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small green chili pepper, split in half lengthwise and de-seeded
pinch of salt

Let's make soup!  Start by washing and dicing the fresh tomatoes, if you're using fresh.  If you're using canned tomatoes just pull out the can opener and crack open the tin! Either way, cook your choice tomatoes with the ginger, garlic, green chilies and Garam Masala. Add about 5 cups of water the bay leaf. Now bring everything to a boil.

Simmer for twenty minutes on a slow flame until tomatoes are really soft. You can tranfer the soup to your blender and give it a quick whirl to pulverize the mixture or you can strain the mixture with a soup strainer to remove the tomato skins and bits. (**quick note about heat -- if you aren't into super spicy you can remove the chili pepper before you blend the mix, but if you like spice leave it.)  While the soup is out of the pot give it a quick wipe with a clean towel and then heat your oil in the pan. Add your lovely cumin seeds, (let them crackle a bit and get super fragrant.) Add your whizzed or strained tomato liquid and season it with a pinch of salt. Bring the soup back to a gentle boil.  Now's the time to taste.  If your soup is super sour, add a bit of suger, stir and taste again.  It's about balance.

Serve tamatar ka shorba piping hot with a sprinkle of minced cilantro.

My Experimental Gluten Free-Naan-Like Flatbread

½ cup almond milk or milk of your choice
2 tsp dried yeast
½ cup teff flour
½ cup tapioca flour
½ cup rice flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp xanthan gum
6 Tbsp soy sour cream (like Tofutti) --- or strained plain soy yogurt

We're going to preheat the oven to 500 degrees or 550 if you've got that kind of power.  If you've got a pizza stone, set it on the lowest rack in your oven.  If you don't have a pizza stone, prep a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper and set it aside.

In the meantime, pour your milk into the mixing bowl of your stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast over it.  Give that a few minutes to bloom... Bloom and grow, forever.... edelweiss... edelweiss... And now that our Sound of Music interlude is over and the yeast has bloomed, we're good to go.  So, tip in the flours and all of the other ingredients and get your mixing blade armed for action.

You're going to want to mix this dough until it is well combined.  It's not going to be like a regular bread dough at all because it's gluten free. It's going to be wet and you're going to wonder if you're making a major mistake.  You might be, but you might be right.  Time will tell!  So, I beat the dough for 6-8 minutes before I felt that it was ready.  The dough was a bit sticky but not a sloppy wet mess.  If yours is gloppy, go ahead and adjust by adding a couple of tablespoons of teff flour and mixing again.  I really doubt that things will be too dry, but you can add a few drops of almond milk if you need to.

Right, hopefully you've got a pizza stone in your oven that's screaming hot.  You can work right on your pizza stone, but if not, rip out a piece of parchment paper and divide your dough into 3 pieces.  You'll be spreading the dough out into circles and it's going to take a little work.  You have to push this dough around a bit and show it who's boss.  We're aiming for a bit less thick than ½ an inch.

When you're ready to roll, get things into the oven and leave them for about 15 minutes.  You should be able to use a large spatula to turn the rounds (which should be crispy on the bottom now).  Once flipped, bake for another 10 minutes until fragrant and irresistable. 

Pull them out of the oven and let them cool slightly before serving with your soup.
soft interior with great texture

Can you see the crusty exterior here?  Soft inside, crusty outside.  Nice.