Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Keeping it Simple

I like to think of myself as a gourmet cook or baker in the kitchen. At times. Like maybe last year. Or the year before that. I mean I was making my own cheese and yogurt. Spaghetti and ravioli! But this year with the demands of work and exercise (I have put that as a priority for this year), I don't have the time I have had in the past. Fortunately, if I have learned anything living a plant strong life it's that I can keep it SIMPLE and be satisfied. Whereas in my former life the more butter, cheese, and sugar I could add to a dish the BETTER, now my motto is: LESS IS MORE! It's a beautiful thing.

Hidden Rose Apple proved to be delicious. A great way to start the day OR end lunch!

The easiest breakfast ever...besides a whole fruit. Oatmeal, slivered almonds and banana.

And if you have blueberries, fresh or frozen, it is a great variation
I like how I can enjoy just a few key ingredients in any dish I might prepare for lunch or dinner. Besides a raw salad (EAT THE SALAD FIRST), I am totally satisfied with simple cooked veggies.

Nothing's much better than brussel sprouts and mushrooms (with garlic!). Saute in water. Add whatever spices.

Roast some asparagus and bell peppers...OMG! Just put it on a pan in the oven and bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. Perfecto mundo!
And just when you think you don't want to eat another leaf of lettuce, MAKE YOUR SALAD PRETTY! I am famous for just throwing romaine in a bowl and calling it a salad. But after a few days I just want to throw it all in the compost pile because it just is not happening. I learned the trick (besides having someone else make it for you).
Variety is the spice of life!

So beautiful! Added bean sprouts on top (on sale!) and it was a great atypical addition!

Only in my later life have I come to enjoy different colored tomatoes. I was strictly a red tomato kinda girl before.

And of course it's all about the dressing!
And then when you just need that break, take your computer or favorite book down to the nearest Starbucks and order yourself a decaf soy latte. The soy does have a bit of sugar in it, but once in a blue moon is just enough to give you that lift we all need once in a while. You deserve a special treat.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Dressing is Everything

It seems like it was only yesterday that I was sick of lettuce. Oh wait. It WAS only yesterday. But everyday is a new day. Ad today I finally remembered to buy tahini and capers--two key ingredients in Appetite for Reduction's best dressing recipe ever: Caesar Chavez Dressing.
Now I am a lettuce freak. Whereas yesterday I couldn't even eat the serving I had for lunch, I had three huge servings for dinner. And I don't really think the toppers added much to make me go back for more. And more. Today it was the dressing. I'm going to make more tomorrow because I think I'm going to do many different things with it including using it as a dip, a spread and, well, maybe you can give me more ideas.

The recipe is forgiving. In fact I didn't even take out my measuring spoons and I couldn't find any cashews in my pantry (I found almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, pecans, mac nuts and even brazil nuts).  I substituted pecans! HA! I have the book that it came from on my iPad but I also found it here at the favorite blog site of mine.

And since I made so many modifications Iʻll just go ahead and post what I did.

Ingredients I used
3-4 garlic cloves
1/4 cup nuts (preferably cashews!)
1/4 cup round onion (I didn't even chop it up. Just cut off a quarter and threw it in the food processor)
2 tablespoons tahini (the brand I bought is actually called TAHINA and I think it's Arabian or something! Much cheaper than Tahini)
2 tablespoons miso
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 lemons, squeezed
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon capers with some of the brine (not too much or it'll be too salty)
black pepper

The original recipe says to blend it for at least 5 minutes and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides often. I didn't do this but I might try it the next time...with the cashews.  Throw all ingredients in a food processor and blend. Enjoy it on your salad.

Best dressing ever. I am in love with it and never want to try another one again. For a long long time. And now I wish I had more lettuce. A far cry from yesterday.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sick of Lettuce

I don't know about you but sometimes I am just so sick and tired of lettuce. I don't wanna see another lettuce. I don't care what color it is, if it's romaine or butter or Mānoa. I am totally over it. And it usually happens when I have had a lot of lettuce with very little "toppers" as I call it. Usually because I was too lazy to pack any toppers to take to work. Toppers make all the difference.  Beans. Tomatoes. Cucumbers. Corn. Salsa. Peppers. Artichoke hearts. Asparagus. You get the point. But when it's just lettuce and dressing. Well I get sick of it. bleh. 

And yet I love to have something cold and refreshing before the main course of a meal.  So here's a great throw together salad substitute OR topper. I think most would refer to it as a Southwestern salad but I think it should just be called "throw together anything but lettuce" salad. This one happens to have tomatoes (I love cherry or currant tomatoes...less cutting), corn, bell peppers (the small ones because they are cheaper than the big ones), and black beans.  Then I just squeezed one lemon into it. If you don't have a lemon but you have a nice flavored vinegar (like white balsamic), use that! I add the avocado at the end and give it a light toss since it tends to get a bit mushed otherwise.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Nutritarian Carrot Cake Muffin Drops

Every so often (quite frequently, actually) I crave desserts. Everyday. I just want it available. Not necessarily to eat it but just to know that I have options and they are as easy to access as a half gallon ice cream container.
I also believed, prior to last night, that any form of baking a dessert required following a recipe TO THE TEE. I know that leaving out an egg or mistaking baking powder from baking soda could have dire consequences.

So believe me when I say what I did last night was a shocker.

On my entire ride home (60 minutes of thinking, mind you), I longed to make Kanani's Oat Bars. Before heading home we stopped at Jamba for a Five Fruit Frenzy with a soy substitute (which led to a long conversation with my favorite Jamba employee about how we were the first to order it and now there's a bunch of people who order it and he couldn't understand why and so he tried it and now he understands. It is GOOD). I was tired. I hadn't eaten since 12 pm. It was already 6:30 pm.  And i gazed longingly at the low fat oat bars. Three for $2.75. But I knew there was sugar in it. And I could make one without sugar once I got home. So I was on a quest.

I pulled up the post to review the recipe so I could start the minute I stepped foot in my kitchen. And then as I started...

I realized I didn't have oats. Argh. And I definitely didn't have zucchini. No bran either! But I was already on a journey of no return. So I thought what the heck!!! I started grabbing things off the shelf. For once in my life I was ready to wing it. No measurements involved. I used Kanani's ingredients as a base but definitely went off course by a whole different ocean.

I am confident in this: try it and add your own. The consistency should end up like muffin mix.

1 cup whole grain flour (whether it is whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour, oat flour, buckwheat, WHATEVER!)
3/4 cup oats (I didn't have rolled oats so I cooked one serving of Coach's oats and added it straight to the mix (still hot!)
1 flax egg mixture (I had just read how to make the perfect flax egg which basically means putting one tablespoon of ground flax in a small bowl, add 3 tablespoons of water, mix and keep in fridge for 15 minutes -- flax egg is a FABULOUS replacement for eggs in baking, just like applesauce is a sub for oil--FEAR NOT!)
1/4 cup ground flax seed
5 small bananas
1-2 cups pineapple chunks (I used can)
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1 cup walnuts (or pecans or mac get the point)
2-3 grated carrots (it really makes for nice color)
5-8 pitted dates
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon

In a food processor mash up the bananas then transfer to a big bowl. Do the same with the pineapple and carrots, dates, and walnuts. I even added figs at one time and it was great. Add the flour, ground flax, flax, egg, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla extract and cinnamon to the big bowl and mix well. Drop onto a parchment lined cookie sheet or fill mini muffins. The mix will NOT raise so you can put them close together. If you use parchment or muffin cups then you do not need to grease the pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, more or less. Try the toothpick test. When it comes out clean, it's done!!! Let me know how it goes! And try other ingredients, including zucchini, apple, pears, raisins or cranberries! And try leaving out the baking soda and powder. Kanani didn't use either! It will be denser, I am sure. More oatcake like. Mine is more muffin like.
UPDATE on 11/14/11: I used the rolled oats and it was easier. I also figured out that it is ONE WHOLE CAN of pineapple chunks. Make sure it is packed in its own juices and DRAIN it. Also put it in the food processor to break them up).

The beginning of the flax egg (just mixed's runny) 
And here it is 15 minutes later! Very egg white consistency like.

My little cookie scooper gadget was perfect for this!

Results (not made with cookie gadget)

Love the addition of the carrot. Great color!

The Quick Guide - EAT TO LIVE

Here is your QUICK guide (the go to place when you can't remember what it is that is allowed, not allowed, what is limited, what is unlimited. Believe me, in a couple more weeks you won't even need it. If you have a friend interested, just lead them here to the blog so they get the gist of what you are doing to improve your overall health. Mahalo to Kanani for beautifying the quick guide.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pesto, Healthy Style

We absolutely love pesto (basil, that is) in this household. In my previous life as an obese live to eat active participant, I made pesto all the time. It was my go to pasta dish when I was too lazy to create anything else. Just some spaghetti noodles and pesto and PRESTO - Dinner of champs. In fact, I blogged about the typical basil pesto here quite some time ago.

But in my new life as an overweight eat to live active participant (and I say that with a big smile on my face), I no longer eat pasta 3 times a week (I don't even think I eat it once a week) and rarely do I have pesto in the fridge. Not because I don't want it anymore but because I wasn't sure what a viable substitute would be, read into this, sans olive oil and parmesan. I tried a couple of recipe I found but they included miso and I didn't care for the flavor. I could taste the miso and while I love miso, I don't love it in my pesto.

So I decided yesterday, after picking some basil in my garden, to just make pesto and leave out those two ingredients. I substituted nutritional yeast for the parmesan and just added a bit of water and a few cashews to try to bring back that creaminess.

While the creaminess wasn't the same despite best efforts, and the taste was a bit different (I also omitted the salt) I like this version. I froze it in my nifty silicone baby food freezer thingee (but you can use ice cube trays) and put the frozen blobs in a ziploc. I'll be using it in stews and soups, as an addition to my no oil hummus and as a spread on whole grain toast. Oh, and probably in a dressing recipe!

2 cups fresh basil, packed
2-4 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup nutritional yeast (add more if you like)
1/8-1/4 cup water (depending on the consistency you would like)
1/4 cup raw cashews (optional)

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and turn it on! This recipe is very forgiving. If you like a more nutty flavor, add more pine nuts. When I am out of pine nuts I'll use whatever nuts I have available. I love mac nuts in my pesto. Or even pecans. Or walnuts. You get the point.

fresh basil from the garden to the kitchen

If you smash the garlic with the side of your knife, it is super easy to peel

I love a lot of garlic. I wish I added more.

raw pine nuts

nutritional yeast

add it all to your blender

turn it on

This is totally optional

Looks good!

Time to freeze for later!

Friday, November 4, 2011


The So Duck Soup Nutritarians (hey, I kinda like that name!) just had their first food demo/make and take of (tan-ta-da-dan -- SUMMER ROLLS! And because we believe in empowering our official members, we had Big Spazz, of The Rubber Slipper Contessa and Big Spazz, doing the demo. Oh, and he is GOOD! He had a lot of veggies ready to go and he showed us how to place (in the first third) and roll (tight and then fold the ends in and then roll some more). One of the main things we learned is that you can put anything you want to in summer rolls.  
Please be forgiving on my video skills. Ken was starting and I was fumbling to get my iPhone out while trying to make my way towards the front. And in the interest of getting this up asap (because our challengers who couldn't make it insisted that I hurry!) I did absolutely NO editing. 

People brought a wide variety of veggies to put in their summer rolls, including: mint, thai basil, cilantro, shiitake mushrooms (presoaked and some marinated in vegetarian stir fry sauce), bean sprouts (some blanched, some not), alfalfa sprouts, julienned carrots and cucumbers, lettuce, avocado, tofu,  green onion sliced thinly).  A key ingredient is the rice paper.  Hard to make summer rolls without them! Oh and sauces! Oh yes. Some used a soybean sauce that was bought in an Asian store in Hilo town, others used the vegetarian stir fry sauce (a great substitute for oyster sauce), and scroll down below for a most delicious and easy to make peanut sauce (Our hostess made a big batch and it was wiped out by the time the last person left).

There were about 4 main areas that were set up for the participants. And while some ingredients were provided for them, they brought most of everything else, including cutting boards, knives, plates and containers to take home their rolls. Oh and they made rolls! But it wasn't just the wonderful opportunity to learn how to make summer rolls (a great dish for nutritarians), it was more the fellowship and conversations that were going on with everyone who came. THAT is what made it so special! MAHALO NUI to everyone who participated and a SPECIAL mahalo to our wonderful hostess and the best Zumba instructor in town, Kanani De Sa. She and her 'ohana are so supportive and full of ALOHA!!

Shiitake mushrooms add a nice "meatiness" to the summer rolls

Someone did a GREAT job cutting carrots!

Rubber Slipper Contessa prepping thai basil

Sharlene is a wonderful sous chef AND dishwasher! And an unofficial member of our group

Merle and her husband were the first to finish. They were on task and focused, as always.

Two Jans

Big Spazz was also the big LOSER (in a good way) during our last challenge

Galen is quite the chef himself and we are hoping that he and his wife will be our next featured demo-ers

Made by our hostess

Our beautiful hostess and her son with their plated summer roll

Okay I think she's happy to be here!

This group was quite talkative and quite productive 
Ku'uipo and Jonah - So glad they joined us!
Vegan Peanut Sauce
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (unsalted, no added sugar)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced and crushed
  • 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over low heat (mixture will become easy to combine as peanut butter melts). Continue stirring over low heat until ingredients are combined and mixture is smooth and creamy. Recipe is perfect as it is, but you may want to thin it out with a bit more water, depending on what you're using it for. If you like your sauce sweeter, add some date syrup.

Next get together: desserts!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mexican Lasagna ala Chef AJ

I spent a good part of my morning putting together an "eat the rainbow blackbean soup". I was so excited about it. Took a lot of photos. See how pretty?




Thought it would be wonderful! Not. I mean, it was okay, but it didn't have that BAM factor that I love when I eat. Maybe I did something wrong. Maybe it's one of those dishes that taste better the second day. I mean seriously, eating a plant strong diet doesn't have to taste so so. I have had some delicious meals this year!

So while we could have just eaten it anyways for dinner I wanted to try something else. I was a hungry monster all day. So out comes my no fail Chef AJ Unprocessed cookbook. You really need to order it on Amazon. She has a great story to tell. And then there are the recipes. And delicious desserts are included. It is TOTALLY nutritarian (others sometimes include agave and salt and while I know it can be left out I just get a little irritated) and I gaze longingly yet lazily at the Disappearing Lasagna (the best dish ever) and flip the page and there it is: Mexican lasagna. And I have all the ingredients in my kitchen. After all it is only four:

4 cans low sodium oil free refried pinto beans
2 packages of 16 oz. frozen corn, defrosted
6 cups salsa or homemade pico de gallo
2 boxes whole wheat/brown rice/whole grain lasagna noodles.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the defrosted corn with the refried beans in a large bowl. Put 3 cups of the salsa on the bottom of a 13x9 pan. Put a layer of lasagna noodles on top of the salsa. I don't know about you, but I am so over boiling lasanga noodles. I don't care if the box doesn't say no boil, I don't boil it no matter what. And it turns out perfectly cooked. My daughter, on the other hand, did the same thing with brown rice lasagna noodles and she said they were a bit chewy. Maybe whole wheat works better.  So maybe boil but not quite as long as usual? Half the time perhaps. On top of the lasagna noodles, spread half of the refried beans/corn mixture. Then lay down more lasagna noodles and the other half of the refried beans/corn mixture. Now this is where the recipe called for yet another layer of noodles but I ran out (I used some leftovers I had stored in a ziploc). So I just put the rest of the salsa on top, sprinkled on some chopped olives and added some Daiya mozzarella cheese. If you have enough ingredients, put on that third layer of noodles and then the salsa. I threw it in the oven for about 45 minutes. I halved the recipe since there was only two of us. I used an 8x8 cake pan and it was perfect! Chef AJ also recommends some sliced green onion on top! Next time I make it I will definitely do the ENTIRE recipe and not just halve it. This is definitely one to have the next day as leftovers. The salsa I used is the Costco one, big container for like under $5.00. It is a little spicy so if you have kids, you definitely want to go for a mild salsa. Next time I make it I might try substituting thinly sliced zucchini or eggplant for the noodles. Just to cut down on the starches.

Best. Thing. Ever. Add some avocado on top and it is heaven. My husband kept saying how delicious it was. YUM YUM!


S L O W   F O O D    F R I D A Y Wow. Has it been that long? Don't think I fell off the face of the earth due to my increased weig...