Holiday Food Saga

Holiday Food Saga is all about trying different recipes that are warm,inviting, and possibly worthy of using in holiday meals. The one problem with being mostly vegan is that the holidays can be a drag. Who wants to bring their own small container of Trader Joe’s soup, or a small plate of something that looks gross and unappealing (trust me, I know how all you carnivores think out there! ;) ) but seriously…why not just volunteer to bring the sweet potatoes, stuffing, or side dishes that are healthy, tasty and frankly..appealing!

For the next couple months my goal is to bring a healthy touch to classic dishes. Saying that kind of made me sound like someone on Food Network. However…like I’ve said before, there are plenty of people who think that adding an extra veggie here or there counts as eating “healthy.” But that’s just not true. We think we can get away with eating Hot Pockets (ahem) every night, or eating out every lunch hour, but the fact is that our bodies catch up with us eventually.

In a way I think I’m lucky because I don’t really have a choice with my health – it’s either eat healthy or don’t get out of bed for a week. So I prefer that first option. Some people are too dependent on food..may in fact idolize it…to the point where they would rather wait until they have hypoglycemia, diabetes, food-induced celiac, IBS…I could go for days. Even GERD or acid-reflux is not caused by spicy foods (however it is made worse by these after you have it) as doctors used to believe, but specialists are finding that it is really fostered by eating fried foods, caffeine, and chocolate. Also eating large amounts and/or right before bedtime. Just like they’re now finding that eating animal products not only causes gout if in excess, but actually causes calcium to be sucked out of your bones – and we thought that was just soda!!

People used to think the health nuts were just that – crazy! But science is slowly but surely proving them right! My goal this week is to watch the documentary Forks Over Knives, which has been recommended to me by multiple people (both health nuts and not). While it’s always exciting to learn new things about health, I’ll be the first to admit that it IS scary.

For instance, one of my favorite foods in the entire world is Japanese Gyoza, or dumplings/potstickers, whatever you wanna call them. They’re amazing. In fact, I really love the Chinese ones, Korean ones, etc. They’re all good in different ways. However, the past 3 months I’ve been incessantly avoiding wheat gluten and this is the one food I’ve never been able to find. For those of you who are interested in eating GF, Feel Good Foods makes the only GF dumplings I’ve been able to find. They come at about $1/dumpling, but they’re very good and for me it’s definitely worth the trouble! I tried to find them online, and believe me when I tell you that paying $30 for a freezer shipping container so isn’t worth it unless you live wayy out of range of one of their carriers. Now normally I oppose this whole buying food out at the store…but I HAVE tried to make dumplings from scratch and without the gluten that works like glue holding flour together…this proves next to impossible. And very tiring. I might have made 15 in about 6 hours of being in the kitchen. So. Not. Worth it.

But I’m getting off-topic. Basically, my goal in the next 2 months is to post a recipe/day of holiday or feel-good-foods that are made healthy and possibly vegetarian and/or vegan…but no promises! Because I will say, finding foods that are tasty and comforting AND healthy is a good compromise – and usually cold-weather soups, stews, and pastas are super cheap! So I hope you join me on my saga :)

Ode to Fall

Autumn. The sun shines through the leaves as they change colors, turning as a deep blood orange, rays of warmth through the coldness of winter. The in-between. There is something beautiful about this time, when life seems to hang like a fine thread, embracing both the ice of winter and the warmth of summer, and somehow finding both. And neither. Where birds still sing to you, trying to wake you up to their beautiful song instead of your alarm clock, a reminder that life goes on, whether you are part of it or not. But you get up, because you inherently desire to embrace the last vestiges of warm weather. A reminder that you’re still clinging on to warm, lazy summer nights. But not in fall. The mornings are cool reminders of the day ahead of you, the bustling of the city streets, people walking past you, pulling at their jackets and sweaters to keep them warm. When it rains you can see your breath, you can smell the snow in the air. When you go hiking the air is crisp and fresh, and you are surrounded by beautiful trees, and the sounds of birds chirping in the distance. The valley below looks warm and inviting, the trees a bright fire that grows beneath your feet. There’s something about the cool fall weather that makes you feel so pensive. Maybe it’s because you can feel the earth changing, growing older, or maybe it’s because at the end of a long day, you can simply wrap yourself up in a nice, down blanket, open a good book, and sip some tea. Watching the leaves fall down around you. Because it’s Fall.

Holiday Saga: Pumpkin & Apple French Toast (Gluten Free)

This Pumpkin & Apple French Toast is amazing! Looking for something quick and easy to make on Thanksgiving or Christmas morning? Or even New Years? Try this recipe! I found the base idea for this on With Style & Grace and adapted it a little. I took Udi’s gluten free sandwich bread, which is light, fluffy, and pliable. This worked great as the base for my french toast. I then went outside to the deck where we have coolers of Cortland apples, which are by far my most favorite type of apple from Buffalo and the Niagara area, and sliced those up for my garnish. This dish would go amazingly well with a maple or applewood bacon or breakfast sausage for all the meat eaters out there!

Pumpkin & Apple French Toast

Serves 3

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1-3 tbsp. almond milk
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon (can put in pumpkin pie spice and skip the cinnamon and nutmeg steps)
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • Udi’s gluten-free bread
  • 2 Cortland (or another soft, sweet type of apple) apples, sliced thinly and/or roughly chopped

Method
In a large shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin puree, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. Place the slices of bread into the egg mixture and let soak while the pan heats up [3-5 minutes]. Spray skillet with non-stick spray in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place  bread into the pan and cook until golden brown on 1 side, approx. 2-3 minutes. Turn the slices over and cook until golden brown, 2-3 minutes longer. 
Topping: with leftover egg mixture, toss in the apples and stir to coat. Toss these in the pan and saute until just soft. Serve on top of French Toast with maple syrup.

Vegan: Winter Cauliflower and Cheddar Soup

This recipe was adapted from a Better Homes & Gardens recipe to be completely vegan. It definitely reminds me of creamy broccoli and cheddar soup, but it’s with cauliflower, which has different (and equally as important) minerals and vitamins in it. The soup is perfectly creamy and thick without being too heavy – we ate it as a first course in our meal the other day and it was perfect. For people who don’t like cauliflower but for some reason are still reading this, my family HATED cauliflower. In fact, the whole time we were cooking this my mom was expressing her doubt, but when we finished and tasted it it was amazing and I would definitely make this again and again!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 medium head cauliflower, roughly chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 2 oz. Daiya cheddar cheese (1/2 cup)
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh dill

Method

  1. Coat large saucepan with cooking spray; add onion and saute over medium heat until tender (3 minutes). Add cauliflower and cook 2 additional minutes.
  2. Add broth and milk and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered, for 30 minutes or until tender.
  3. Remove from heat, puree soup in blender in batches. Return to pan over medium-low heat. Whisk in cheese and bring to low boil. Stir until melted. Sprinkle with dill, stir and cook for an additional 15-30 minutes, until ready to eat.

The dill is what really makes this recipe, so let it have some time to soak it in, and really use fresh dill if you can, it makes a huge difference!

Raw Diet: Onion Bread and Red Pepper Hummus

Raisins.

Eating raw is inherently difficult for most people. People find it too difficult, too daunting, and too time consuming. I don’t eat entirely raw by any means, especially during the winter when all I want is some soup and hot chocolate, but occasionally along comes a recipe that I can’t seem to live without. This onion bread recipe has been passed down from health doctor to doctor, and somehow our family got ahold of it. It takes a dehydrator, which some people might argue is too expensive. But having one, especially if you’re interested in eating healthy, is SO useful! You can use it to make dried fruit out of fruit that might go bad if it sits around another day, or vegetables, or make your own healthy granola using raw honey and fruit! Kale chips and banana chips I know are super popular among health store shoppers, and would be so cheap to make yourself! All you have to do is slice up a banana and stick it on the sheet, and a few hours later – voila! The onion bread recipe is great because you can also leave it on the sheets for a couple more hours and make onion crackers – and then just cut into whatever shapes, sizes, etc. you want to eat!

I personally love eating the onion bread pieces with raw red pepper hummus. About a day before you make the onion bread, shove 1 cup of garbanzo beans/chickpeas in a glass jar (or if I’m at school I’ve used a tupperware container!), soak overnight, and then let sprout while your onion bread dries up (8 hours soaking, 8 hours sprouting). It’s really perfect timing if you think ahead. Typically during the summer we have this ready made every week so we can eat it up when we want something filling, nutritious and raw. I usually have onion bread, hummus, and a slice of tomato on top of each piece. If I don’t think ahead, many times I’ll buy hummus (Greek or Red pepper tends to work the best, although I’m sure it doesn’t matter) and use that instead. If I need a big meal at work, l bring these and a large salad. Now for all you haters out there, most hummus is supposed to use sprouted beans rather than canned ones. On every food show I’ve watched, Bobby Flay (or Gordon Ramsay) always lectures about it, and usually people who use cans are kicked off that episode!

So anyway, try this out! Even if you don’t have a dehydrator, you should try the hummus because that alone is amazing! If you use cold-pressed, organic olive oil, you won’t even have guilt from too much oil in your food! The bread is entirely gluten free, and grain free.

Onion Bread/Crackers

Ingredients

  • 3lb. bag sweet onions, chopped roughly
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds, ground
  • 1 cup golden (or dark) flax seeds, ground
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, cold pressed, organic
  • 3oz. Briggs Liquid Aminos, soy sauce, or Tamari sauce
  • 1 cup shredded carrots

Method

  1. For onions: chop roughly, then food process until smooth and smooshy (there should be no “pieces” of onion left)

    Peel and chop Vidalia onions and put into food processor - peeling and slicing in half this way helps you avoid the tears!

  2. For seeds: I’ve found that grinding them in our VitaMix blender or in a coffee grinder works well, but make sure your blender blades can handle this, otherwise use a grinder
  3. For carrots: you can process them or buy them shredded, or shred them yourself. I personally use our processor tool for shredding which works great.
  4. Mix all ingredients together in any order
  5. Spread evenly over dehydrator sheet, will make approx. two trays

    Spread out the dough evenly so that it's easy to cut and so all parts take the same amount of time to dry

  6. Dehydrate for 1 hour at 145 F, then lower to 115 F for 23-24 hours (check to make sure it’s the consistency you want)

Make it spread thinner for crackers. Cut with a pizza cutter.


Red Pepper Hummus

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried garbanzo beans, soaked in a jar in purified water for 8 hours, then drained. Let sprout in container for another 8 hours.
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice (if you want it raw, juice from actual lemons, not from the store which is cooked)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, cold pressed
  • 3 tbsp. organic chickpea miso
  • 3 tbsp. raw tahini
  • 1 raw organic jalapeno pepper, seeded
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, chopped roughly

Method

  1. Place all ingredients in VitaMix blender (or another one that’s able to grind drier ingredients) and secure the lid.
  2. Set on lowest setting and slowly make your way to high; blend until smooth.

Holiday Saga: Rosemary Mint Roasted Chicken & Sweet Potatoes w/ Cranberry and Chipotle Dressing

Today was a nice, relaxing day. Spent most of the time in the kitchen, blogging, surfing the web, and finally helping to prepare the chicken and figuring out my sweet potato recipe. I found it on Bess’s Bistro and it is amazing! It really is the perfect combination of sweet, spicy, and savory. As I explained in my Holiday Food Saga post earlier, my goal over the next month or two is to really find some solid, healthy but comforting holiday foods, and this sweet potato recipe nailed it! Everyone who ate it loved it (besides my brother, who doesn’t believe in vegetables -_-), so that’s a great sign! It’s super easy to make with not a lot of dishes.

Rosemary Mint-Roasted Chicken

Ingredients

  • Whole 4 1/2lb. chicken, organic
  • 1 jar basting sauce from Whole Foods (Rosemary & Mint)

Method

  1. Wash chicken
  2. Put in roasting pan and pour basting sauce on top, covering all of the skin
  3. Roast for about 1 hour, 45 minutes.
  4. Baste chicken in juices after 1 hour.
  5. Let finish roasting for 45 minutes.

* * *

Sweet Potatoes with Cranberry-Chipotle Dressing

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries (or fresh or frozen)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. honey (raw honey if possible)
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, plus 1 tsp. sauce, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 450 F. Place potatoes on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil (you can use up to 2 tbsp, or less if you can), and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. 
  2. Bake for 30 minutes or until tender, turning after 15 minutes.
  3. Combine remaining ingredients (besides onions and cilantro) in saucepan. 
  4. Place pan over medium-low heat; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Remove from heat, mash until chunky.
  6. Combine potatoes, onions, and cilantro in a bowl. Add cranberry mixture. Toss to coat.
  7. Serve.

One Day on Earth: Documenting the World’s Story

One Day on Earth is pretty much the coolest thing ever. It’s kind of exciting. Basically, it’s an organization made up of multiple NPOs and other companies, photographers, videographers, and just normal people like you and me taking a look at what’s going on all in one day.

Here’s their site description:

On November 11th, 11.11.11, across the planet, documentary filmmakers, students, and other inspired citizens will record the human experience over a 24-hour period and contribute their voice to the second annual global day of media creation called One Day on Earth. Together, we will create a shared archive and a film.

Founded in 2008, One Day on Earth’s first media creation event occurred on 10.10.10. The collaboration was the first ever simultaneous filming event occurring in every country of the world. It created a unique geo-tagged video archive as well as an upcoming feature film.

Together, we are showcasing the amazing diversity, conflict, tragedy, and triumph that occurs in one day. We invite you to join our international community of thousands of filmmakers, hundreds of schools, and dozens of non-profits, and contribute to this unique global mosaic. One Day on Earth is a community that not only watches, but participates.

They have a trailer from last year’s One Day on Earth video (10/10/10):

One Day on Earth is a great way to bring everyone in the world together for one day. The births, the traffic incidents, the sunrises and sunsets, the every day life of everyone on Earth. It’s a beautiful way to remind us that we’re all people living on the same planet going about our lives. That’s some unifying stuff!

 

Related Links

 

Holiday Saga: Spiced Pumpkin Coconut Risotto

This pumpkin coconut risotto is perfect for the holiday season! You could very well serve this next to turkey on Thanksgiving if you’re so inclined. I personally would have it in the fall rather than on a holiday celebrating America haha but that’s me! I found this recipe on FoodGawker, which I frequent ALL the time, and it tastes amazing! It’s great mostly because it’s entirely vegan! And finding good comforting vegan risotto is incredibly difficult if not impossible :( I do have to warn you that without the Parmesan cheese you do have to add some extra salt at the end, unless you like the tinge of sweetness – in which case, eat it up as it is! I did tweak this recipe from the original -

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pumpkin (or 1 sugar pumpkin)
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely diced onion
  • 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger (3/4 tsp. dried)
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander
  • Pinch cinnamon
  • 2 sage leaves, finely chopped (1/4 tsp. dried)
  • 1/2 tsp. red curry paste
  • generous amounts of salt and black pepper
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup light coconut milk
  • Squeeze of lime juice, optional

Directions

In a deep saute pan or pot over medium low heat, heat oil. Add onions and ginger and cook gently, until translucent. Add the rice and toast for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add wine and stir until evaporated. Add pumpkin and spices, stirring well. Gently pour in chicken stock and cook, covered, until rice is fully cooked and all broth is used (around 30-35 minutes), once you hit 25 minutes take the cover off and continue cooking. Stir in coconut milk and season with salt and pepper. Squeeze some lime juice over rice before serving.

If you are using a sugar pumpkin, the recipe for cooking is as follows. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line baking sheet with foil. Slice pumpkin in half, remove seeds and strings, and drizzle open sides with oil. Place face down on sheet and roast for about 40 minutes, or until pumpkin is fork tender. Scoop it out and set aside for rice.

JCAHUEHFA3JG

Happy Veteran’s Day: an Amazing Sacrifice

Happy Veteran’s Day! Aren’t our troops just amazing? I mean, it’s a tough decision to give up years or decades of your life to serving your country, protecting those less fortunate, and training to defend every one of our lives. While I personally have not served (no branch would
take me with all my ailments!), many of my friends and relatives have both enlisted and are Academy graduates. And they clearly do a great job, because we’re still alive today! Without having a war on our turf in over half a century! That’s pretty amazing.

My good friend Alyssa wrote an amazing testimonial from her perspective that I want to share with all of you.

The average civilian cannot even begin to comprehend what it means to be an American soldier. Everybody knows the textbook answers: soldiers are frequently away from home, miss holidays and birthdays, frequently have to move, are in dangerous situations…etc, etc. But what most people do not realize is how being in the military, whether it’s just for one enlistment or for life shapes who a person is down to their core. Most people have the luxury of leaving their work life and it’s issue at the door when they come home. Military members do not have that luxury. They constantly live in the fear, or the hope that they will get a phone call any day asking them to uproot their life and their family to another city, state, or country. They constantly live with the joyful or scarring memories of their military experience that can, with one thought, ruin their day, or enlighten it. A soldier has to get used to talking about topics he never thought would be casual conversation, like how often he updates his will. A soldier has to get use to ignoring the feelings of guilt when someone asks him when the last time he saw his child or mother or spouse was. Being in the military means you have to grow accustomed to a lifestyle where tomorrow and what that day may bring is never guaranteed, never can be predicted. Tomorrow could mean the end of your life because your job brought you to a dangerous war zone. Tomorrow could mean you finally got those orders to be stationed at a base near home. Tomorrow could mean your wife or girlfriend finally leaves you because she cannot handle the stress of you being gone so often. Tomorrow could mean that your best friend just got orders to ship to a new base, or that a new soldier just arrived to your workforce that you really get along well with. Tomorrow could mean reentering the civilian world, learning how to enjoy hot showers and real meals and quiet and being able to wear jeans and a t-shirt again. Everyday, not just on Veterans Day should Americans remind themselves that being in the military is not just a job, it’s a lifestyle, it governs every action and impacts every thought that a soldier has. Being in the military is by far the most underappreciated and misunderstood job out of any occupation. A soldier’s willingness to sacrifice his family, his home, his children and spouse, his comfort, his health and perhaps his life is what keeps this country whole. Without the threat of one of the most powerful military forces in the world, America might as well strap a bull’s-eye on her back.

This actually made me tear up as I read and then re-typed it in here. How amazing. I’ve heard stories about the Vietnam war, when all of the college students were rioting and protesting the soldiers, how the ones who were abroad came back to their homes and families, how devastated they were. Not that the war had been devastating (although that was certainly true), but that as hard as it had been, as horrible as the things were that soldiers had to
face, what was truly  hard was coming back and finding that your whole country had turned its back on you. They didn’t feel as though the protesters were protesting the war, but they took it personally. As if giving up their lives and sanity in many cases was their fault. Those protesters left all of the responsibility of the war not on the government leaders, but on the individual soldiers who gave everything they knew how in order to protect our country and those who were less fortunate than us. Talk about gratitude.

Likewise, I think we as a society today can do the same thing. When I talk to family members and friends who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, they know the good they’re doing. They see it first-hand. They see the little children running up to them in the streets, thanking them for saving their lives, building schools, establishing laws that hopefully won’t crumble beneath the extremists. That’s something they are proud of. But when we have the audacity to criticize the fact that it’s inconveniencing us to have them gone, or that the military leaders are cruel to have the soldiers do their duty, how does that help them? It’s our support and love that makes it worth it. I mean, who wants to save a country full of ungrateful people – like we can all be at times? It’s not us out there, facing death each day, it’s them. It’s not their choice whether to go to war or not, whether to stay in Iraq or not, but somehow they do it anyway. Giving their lives to this service. How hard is it to simply say, “good job, we appreciate it”, or send a card once in a while?

Another friend of mine, Tina, who is also a member of ROTC, also wrote about this holiday:

My contract with the Army made me look into my own life, my future, but also other fellow Armed Forces soldiers around me. When I am walking on campus in my uniform, I often get approached by veterans inquiring about ROTC. I have learned that many of these veterans who are returning to school, were once decorated, well-distinguished soldiers who were out there fighting on behalf of the American people in Iraq and Afghanistan. These individuals’ low-key, respectful demeanors humbled me greatly! I became acutely aware that many of these former soldiers just want to lead a simple civilian life after having served their time with the Army. I believe that despite what many Americans will say and think about the current state of the government, economy, country’s leadership, this and that, there is almost no question or debate about the level of faith and commitment that a lot of our veterans put forth in ultimately protecting US and keeping US safe! I have a lot of respect for our veterans as well as those who are still actively serving. Veterans are some of the most honorable and humbling individuals that I have gotten to know! Kudos to their hard work and dedication and also, Kudos to my university for creating a strong support system here on campus for our veterans!

Recently a family friend told me of a campaign called Candy for the Troops, where after Halloween families would send candy they collected to an organization that would ten organize and pass it on to “adopt” a soldier. How creative! I mean, we don’t really need pounds of candy. Or maybe we have some left over after passing it out, and shouldn’t overstep our diet. Either day, I’m sure a piece of chocolate to a soldier in Iraq is much more meaningful than the ten we eat in bed before we go to sleep. Other organizations have been knitting blankets and sending them overseas. Now we all know there’s no way it’s cold enough to need them, but how encouraging to know that someone is thinking about what you’re doing and your mission to serve.

I know that many of us don’t necessarily believe in the “war,” but we do believe in our country, in our men, and in their lives. Do we want their sacrifice to be for nothing? What if it was your son or daughter who was giving up his or her life? Would it make you feel any different? So I urge you this Veteran’s Day to search your heart and find compassion for the men and women who think about you and support you every minute of their lives. If, today, you live in a free country, thank a veteran.

Happy Veteran’s Day to you too, soldiers. Keep doing a great job :)