[This post is part of an ongoing series of interviews with cookbook authors, bloggers, women entrepreneurs and home chefs whose work I enjoy and admire. If you've got someone in mind you'd like me to approach for an interview, please shoot me an email at dietdessertdogsATgmailDOTcom, or leave a comment here and let me know! And now, enjoy today's installment!]
It was almost 3 years ago that I first came across The Blissful Chef, aka Christy Morgan. I remember hearing quite a bit of buzz about this classically trained, macrobiotic-leaning vegan chef (who had received glowing reviews from her client, Alicia Silverstone!). Shortly thereafter, Christy and I somehow became friends on Facebook, and a dialogue began. I admired what she was doing and agreed to review one of her ebooks,Cooking with the Seasons: Summer. I recall being pleasantly surprised at how much the recipes focused on real, whole foods, unprocessed and without a lot of added oils or salt. I loved the dishes I tried and was happy to move on to a glowing review of Christy’s first cookbook, Blissful Bites,half a year later. That book remains one of my favorites to this day.
Today, I’m happy to share with you Christy’s latest venture: Wellness Reboot, a healthful, all-in-one online culinary and exercise program that will help you reboot your wellness goals. But Christy says it much better than I can, so take a gander at her answers to my questions, below! And don’t forget to check out the giveaway after the interview!
Q. Can you explain what Wellness Reboot is all about?
Wellness Reboot is a 28-day online wellness program. It’s an accumulation of all that I’ve learned both in culinary arts and in over 10 years in the health and wellness field. The program includes more than 15 videos on cooking techniques (stocking you kitchen and pantry, etc), a 28-day meal plan of delicious whole food plant-based recipes (no oil, no processed foods, no refined sugar, mostly gluten-free), a Getting Started Guide that explains everything one would need to know about eating healthfully and living a plant-based lifestyle, continual support from me through a private Facebook group, and bi-weekly conference calls. Not only does it have all of this, but I’ve partnered with an amazing vegan personal trainer, Chad Byers of Beyond Fit, to include a fitness element to the program, so you’ll get a workout that’s easy to do at home, along with workout videos. It’s unlike any other online program!
Q. Sounds very comprehensive, Christy! Who can benefit from taking this program?
This program is great for those who are ready to transition to a healthier way of eating and living. Whether you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, or maybe you have a health condition you would like to treat naturally, or maybe you recently switched to a plant-based diet but need guidance, this program is for you. I have a lot of people email me who have watched Forks Over Knives or another documentary and they are ready to change their diet to plant-based. This program will hold your hand and show you the healthy way to transition. Wellness Reboot is endorsed by Forks Over Knives, Dr. Neal Barnard (of PCRM.org) and many more people in the health and wellness community.
It’s also for those who have already made the switch to a vegan diet but need help in the kitchen. Wellness Reboot is being dubbed as a “cooking boot camp” from participants. If you aren’t good in the kitchen you will be after this program. So be prepared to cook your butt off (literally and figuratively). Even after one week, our Rebooters are losing weight, no longer having sugar cravings, and controlling health issues like IBS. The power of plant-based food combined with a fitness program are unbelievable!
Q.What prompted you to include the fitness element? And who inspires you to be more fit?
I’m a strong believer that we need to eat healthfully AND move our bodies on a regular basis for optimal health. Studies show that those who exercise have better physical and mental health, have stronger bones, a better sex life, less instances of disease or common illness, and live longer. But you can’t out exercise a bad diet. You need both. My boyfriend is a good example. He is a bodybuilder and ultramarathon runner. He looks about 10 years younger than he is and continues to excel post-40. He and my trainer (and fitness coach for Wellness Reboot), Chad Byers, inspire me to become more every day. I’ve signed up for a triathlon in September and I’m ready to take my training to the next level! [Congrats!]
[Carrot Hummus--oil-free and flavor-packed!]
Q. Can you tell us which are your three favorite recipes from the program?
[Indian Chickpea Wraps from the program]
Honestly I’m kind of in love with all the recipes. I feel like it’s some of my best work because they are all very easy recipes packed full of flavor using whole food ingredients. If I had to choose just a few it would be: 1. Breakfast: Maple Pumpkin Seed Cereal Parfait, 2. Lunch: Indian Chickpea Wraps, 3. Snack: Edamame Guacamole Dip, 4. Dinner: Polenta Pesto Pizza and 5. Dessert: Chocolate Coconut Pecan Bites.
Q. You mentioned that the recipes are oil-free. For those who don’t follow an oil-free diet, can they include healthy oils and still benefit from the program?
The program is kind of like a cleanse so it’s nice to eliminate oil so you start to enjoy the taste of whole foods. We have become addicted to fat, and while some fat is better than others, we leave out oil for this program. There is plenty of whole food fat like coconut, avocado, and some nut butters. It’s not about deprivation but retraining our palates and creating new healthy habits in the kitchen.
Q. If someone has time for just one form of exercise, what would you recommend as the best thing that can be done daily?
I think High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the way to go. I’ve been doing it for years and that is what the fitness program is based on. It’s exactly what it sounds like, a series of moves that use body weight (or other equipment) in fast, short bursts where you push yourself as hard as you can and take a small rest in-between each move. All the exercises in our program are shown in video and pdf form and we also have a LIVE workout class with our fitness coach, Chad Byers of Beyond Fit.
Thanks so much, Christy! I’ve really enjoyed learning more about this latest venture of yours.
And now. . . GIVEAWAY TIME!
This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to everyone who entered! We have a winner:
Congratulations, Jessica! Christy or I will contact you via email for more information.
Christy has also generously offered to give away a FREE spot in the next Wellness Reboot($350 value!) to one lucky winner! In addition, she’s offering FIVE spots in the program at a huge discount ($100 off) for the first 5 DDD readers to claim their places. All you need to do is contact Christy here if you’re interested in one of the five discounted spots–but remember, it’s first come, first served for the $100 discount!
(Note: This is NOT an affiliate product; I am receiving no monetary or other compensation for this review. I was, however, given access to the program materials and recipes so that I could review it for you all, and I thought it was a great program.).
Wellness Reboot is a comprehensive program that not only provides healthful recipes, but teaches you how to make them; and the video workout component is something I’ve not seen anywhere else.
To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment below telling me which aspect of the program you’re most interested in: cooking classes, recipes, or workout videos, or something else! You can also gain extra entries by doing any of the following (then come back and leave an additional comment telling me that you did):
THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO ENTERED!
This giveaway is open worldwide. You can enter until midnight EST on Wednesday, January 30th, after which I’ll choose a winner at random. Good luck, all!
Christy also shared this recipe for Carrot Hummus from the program, as well as one participant’s comment about it: “I took the Carrot Hummus to work and shared with a coworker. She *loved* it and the wrap I made with it today was awesome! It was the perfect portable lunch for work. I can’t believe how much my meat-eating husband is loving all the recipes too.” I have to say, the HH also enjoyed this hummus, and I gobbled up my serving. No need for oil in this one–totally delicious!
No-Fat Carrot Hummus
Reprinted with Permission from Christy Morgan.
Who says you have to use chickpeas to make a hummus dip?! You are going to flip for this white bean version that has added carrots for extra vitamins.
2 cups (480 ml) carrots, large dice
2 cups (480 ml or one 15 ounce can) cooked white beans
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast [I'm still avoiding nooch so used 1 Tbsp/15 ml light miso and it worked beautifully]
2 Tbsp (30 ml) fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp (15 ml) tamari soy sauce [I used Braggs]
1 tsp (5 ml) apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) garlic powder
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) cumin
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) corianderBoil carrots until tender. Drain and place in blender or food processor with remaining ingredients. Blend until well combined and no chunks remain. Add more seasoning to taste. Makes 3-5 servings.
[This post is part of an ongoing series of interviews with cookbook authors, bloggers, women entrepreneurs and home chefs whose work I enjoy and admire. If you've got someone in mind you'd like me to approach for an interview, please shoot me an email at dietdessertdogsATgmailDOTcom, or leave a comment here and let me know! And now, enjoy today's installment!]
I first met Heather when she invited me to speak about candida at her Better Health Summit last year. I was delighted to be included with so many other bloggers and experts whose work I admire. . . and was thrilled to learn that Heather had also attended the same nutrition school that I did! After bonding over CSNN and how much we loved the program, we had a great time chatting at the Summit.
As I learned more about her site and the videos through which she provides nutrition information and recipes for her readers, I was so impressed with her knowledge and the work she does that I decided to become an affiliate for her cooking classes (one of which you can win in the giveaway at the bottom of the page!). Since then, Heather and I have even managed to meet up in person and solidify what was a budding online friendship.
I asked Heather a few questions about her online presence, her cooking classes, and her work as a nutritionist so you could learn a bit more about her, too. Tomorrow, I’ll be sharing her easy and delicious recipe for Spicy Black Bean Burgers (HH-approved!).
And don’t forget to read to the end so you can enter the giveaway!
Tell us a bit about your career path and how you got to where you are today.
I’ve had a bit of a crazy career path to where I am now. In university, I studied business and aviation and trained to be a commercial pilot. Unfortunately, just as I was starting to work as a flight instructor, I started learning about environmental issues and decided that I just couldn’t continue a career that would require me to burn mass amounts of fuel every day.
My next career was as a financial adviser, but I was also disillusioned there because the job was more about sales than about what I wanted to do, which was help people set up a stable future. While I considered my next move, I worked as a candidate organizer for the Green Party during a provincial election in BC. It was exhilarating, but really stressful.
Having learned so much from my first jobs about what it was I wanted to put my time and energy into, I knew my next career had to fulfil some pretty big goals. I wanted to help people, I wanted to create positive energy in the world and I wanted to do something that would be in harmony with my beliefs on sustainability and ethics.
Somewhere along the way, my husband and I had first started eating healthier, then eating only plant foods. By the time I was looking for my next career, we were seeing the results of how great we felt, how much energy we had and how Phil’s lifelong acne had totally cleared off his face and shoulders.
I decided that I wanted to show people how easy and fun it can be to make delicious meals out of plant foods. I also wanted to have good nutritional background knowledge to motivate people to eat more good food and help people bring their body back into balance with the right nourishment.
I studied at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition to become a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. The course was perfect for me, because I didn’t want to get into the reductionist style of scientific nutrition, where you look at each individual nutrient. Holistic nutrition is about how the body works as a whole, and how it interacts with foods as a whole.
So that was a bit of a long answer, but I feel like it’s been a long journey. I’ve learned so much, and it’s amazingly wonderful to be able to share that with others and help them on their journey. And I’m only 30 years old! I’m looking forward to all the amazing things that will happen in the future.
What do you love most about cooking with whole foods?
Well, my funny answer is that the dishes are SO much easier to clean! But my serious answer is that I just feel so much better eating whole plant foods. It’s funny how sometimes you don’t realize that you feel bad until something changes and you feel better. I didn’t realize that my lack of focus and energy was from what I was eating.
A lot of people ask me how I stay motivated to eat healthy foods all the time, and if I ever get cravings or just want to be ‘bad’. I have to say, the rewards of healthy eating are so fantastic that they are their own motivation. And if I feel like being ‘bad’, I know that true junk food will only make me feel worse so I have a lot of healthy treat ideas up my sleeve to indulge cravings in a way that still keeps me feeling awesome.
What is the most interesting new ingredient you’ve discovered?
Learning to cook with plant foods opened me up to all the wonderful spices and seasonings out there. I don’t know why I didn’t use them so much before, but I definitely would never go back!
I love the gingerbread-type spices (ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves) and Indian spices (cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger, cayenne). I always thought I didn’t like Indian food, but it’s just that I don’t like the hot spices. If I use all the wonderful Indian spices without much cayenne, I love it!
I also think onion and garlic powders can add a really nice savory flavor to things. Fresh is better nutritionally, but the flavor is so amazing for certain things. I always figure that if a good seasoning makes you eat more fresh veggies, then in the big scheme it’s helpful.
My most recent discovery is smoked paprika, which I’d been seeing for a while but wasn’t sure I’d like it. I’m not too into smoky flavors. It was Dreena Burton’s recipes in her cookbook Let Them Eat Vegan! that inspired me to finally give it a try. She was right, it’s amazing!! I now put it in dressings, dips and sauces all the time.
Why do you use videos exclusively to offer your information?
Videos are my way of connecting with people, and I wanted to show things rather than just talk about them. There are a million recipes out there, and people might look at them and say ‘oh, I can’t make that because I don’t know how to do it’, or ‘that’s going to be too hard to make’. What I wanted to do was visually show people how to do things, how easy it is, and also how it can be really fun. A lot of cooking videos are pretty dry, and don’t get me excited about cooking.
It’s funny, although I may seem very outgoing in my videos I’m actually incredibly shy and hate watching and listening to myself! I’ve been working at it over the years, trying to feel more comfortable in front of the camera. It’s definitely easier when it’s just me in my kitchen with a camera than trying to present to a big audience. So videos are the best way for me to put myself out there without dying of nerves.
If you could transform any food to make it suddenly good for you, which food would you choose?
This is a really difficult question because I already make most of the things I love in a healthy way… I’ve always been a fruitaholic, too, so I’m lucky that most of my biggest cravings are for fruit. I guess the one thing that I haven’t figured out how to make without eggs yet is lemon meringue pie. My Nana used to make the most amazing lemon meringue pie. I’ve made a fantastic coconut crust and a lemon filling set with agar for delicious and healthy lemon squares, but the meringue topping hasn’t happened yet.
What’s your favorite dish to serve to someone who’s never eaten vegan food?
Well, this kind of depends on the person eating. Some people go wild for stuff like shepherd’s pie (which I make with lentils and/or mushrooms but still call it shepherd’s pie because I don’t imagine the shepherds ate lamb all the time, right? Otherwise they wouldn’t have any sheep left). Others really love a good tomato sauce drizzled over spaghetti and (buckwheat) meatballs. One thing I’m always conscious of doing for people who have never eating vegan and/or healthy food is to make a really good sauce or dressing.
I guess I do have a personal leaning on this. I love to make a nice savory and flavorful veggie burger (or loaf), served with spicy sweet potato fries and a creamy avocado dip. I haven’t met anyone yet who hasn’t loved that meal.
Thanks so much, Heather! I’m sure the DDD readers loved learning more about you, too! And now. . .
WIN THE ENTIRE SET OF HEATHER’S ONLINE COOKING CLASSES!
Heather is generously giving away an entire course–that’s 24 online classes of 45-60 minutes each–to one DDD reader!
The classes provide quick, easy meals that are made with nutritious whole foods, entirely plant-based–and are ready in 30 minutes or less. Recipes are divided into categories (eg, Soups, Salads, Dessert, etc.) and in each class, Heather demonstrates one recipe on video. I’ve been working my way through these over the past few weeks (come back tomorrow for Heather’s recipe for Spicy Black Bean Burgers!) and have really enjoyed her upbeat, approachable style, which I’m sure would set even a novice cook at ease in the kitchen.
As a Holistic Nutritionist, Heather also really knows her stuff. The videos are peppered (no pun intended) with useful information, tips and tricks about ingredients, cooking techniques and more; each video is accompanied by a print version of the same recipe if you’d like to print it out. There’s also a private members website where you can watch the videos any time, or as many times as you wish, or download them; see other tips and tricks with photos; or ask Heather questions directly about the recipes in a discussion forum. For a full list of all the recipes and all the bonus items you’ll receive in the course, go here.
Of course, if you don’t want to wait until the giveaway is over, you can head over now and purchase the entire series. Heather is offering a special price for DDD readers for one week, starting todayuntil Friday, December 28th at midnight EST! You can get the full course for just $67 (that’s $80 or 55% off–be sure to use the code RICKI at checkout). Heather provides a 100% money back guarantee if you’re not happy with them for any reason. Wouldn’t that make a great Christmas gift for a budding cook? Or, if you’re just curious to find out more, here’s a set of three free videos Heather has put together with some of her best kitchen tips as a little gift for DDD readers.
This giveaway is open worldwide. Contest will remain open until midnight on Monday, December 24th, after which I’ll choose a winner at random.
To enter the giveaway for a FULL SET OF COOKING CLASSES plus all the bonus materials, do any or all of the following using the Rafflecopter form, below:
Leave a comment telling me which recipe you think would make a great video demonstration;
[This post is part of an ongoing series of interviews with cookbook authors, bloggers, women entrepreneurs and home chefs whose work I enjoy and admire. If you've got someone in mind you'd like me to approach for an interview, please shoot me an email at dietdessertdogsATgmailDOTcom, or leave a comment here and let me know! And now, enjoy today's installment!]
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I actually met Lisa many years ago when I first attended the annual Vegetarian Food Festival here in Toronto. Lisa was the cheery, energetic volunteer with the always-smiling face who greeted many of the guests and helped us find our way as we wandered among the many stalls and vendor booths at the Fair (and, in more recent years, has become a presenter in partnership with Nicole, drawing a packed house for their recipe demos). Later, I began to read Lisa’s blog, Vegan Culinary Crusade. When I held a giveaway for baked goods from Sweet Freedom just before the book was published, it turned out that Lisa was the winner (you can read her review of the goodies here). From there, an email friendship grew and like her other loyal readers, I’ve followed along as Lisa has developed her blog, studied to become a raw food chef, and trekked around the world sharing her joyful veganism.
I was lucky enough to meet Nicole a couple of years back when Angela threw a birthday party and we were both invited. I was delighted to learn that she worked as a writer and editor (a dream job of mine!). As a food blogger and recipe creator, Nicole also holds certification in plant-based nutrition through Cornell University and the T. Colin Campbell Foundation, so she’s adept at making those fabulous and great-tasting recipes good for you, too. Her blog, A Dash of Compassion, highlights delicious, healthy, vegan recipes, which she refers to as her own brand of “baketivism.”
Now, Lisa and Nicole have collaborated to bring you Tiny Treats, and entire ebook of 25 delicious whole-food vegan sweet treats, many of them raw (though they do also offer baked options)–no special equipment required (just a food processor or blender). The recipes I’ve tried so far have been incredible, and the photos in this ebook are also stunning (and each recipe has its own full-color photo)–every page is a mini celebration of healthy, beautiful, delicious food! And perhaps most importantly, the women are donating a portion of their proceeds to the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand, in order to sponsor the elephants there. Every purchase will help them reach their goal!
Today I’m sharing the recipe for Cinnamon Bun Granola, a crispy, chewy, satisfying and just-sweet-enough treat (note that I adapted the recipe for the ACD, with no problems at all; in fact, most of the recipes would be easily adaptable by subbing coconut nectar for maple syrup).
I asked Lisa and Nicole a few questions about their baking, blogs, and ebook. Once you’re done reading, be sure to enter the giveaway, below!
1. You obviously work well together as recipe creators and cookbook designers—the recipes are all delectable and the photos are stunning. How did this collaboration come about?
We met at a vegan cookbook launch party a few years ago. It didn’t take long to discover that we’re culinary soul mates. We share a food philosophy, a curiosity about creative cuisine, and a love of learning new techniques. Over the years, we’ve collaborated on blog challenges, co-presented food demos and travelled to vegan events. With our shared love of sweet treats, the ebook became the perfect platform for us to tackle the recipes we’ve been dreaming about for years. We have different palates and different sources of inspiration, which helped to develop a diverse collection of recipes that all shared the same basic qualities: whole food ingredients and amazing flavours.
2. What did you enjoy most about working together?
We delight in each other’s creations. We’re inspired by one another’s enthusiasm and when things don’t work out there is always someone else ready to retest the sauce or taste the next batch.
3. Your ebook features many raw treats. How much of your own diet is raw? Any reason you eat this way?
The ebook recipes focus on whole-food ingredients, so they don’t call for any processed flours or sugars. However, we do use a few ingredients that do not fit into the standard definition of raw cuisine, such as maple syrup. We love the wonderful flavours that nut flours and date pastes impart but we also believe in flexibility. Even the directions in the book are not exclusively raw. Most kitchens don’t have a dehydrator so we made sure to include oven-baking instructions for any of our recipes that need a little heat.
4. Why are all the treats so small?
We both believe that a healthful diet is built around plenty of vegetables and fruit. The desserts in this book fit well into that plan. These desserts are nutrient dense and therefore surprisingly satisfying. They are the perfect size to enjoy at the end of a meal or as an in-between snack. But if you like a heartier portion, go ahead and cut those brownies into 10 rather than 20.
5. You donate a portion of the proceeds to the elephant sanctuary in Thailand. What was the motivation for this choice?
Last year, Lisa spent a week volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand. It was a life-altering experience. The elephants at the park have all been rescued from situations where they have been abused at the hands of humans and yet they treat all of the guests of the park with warmth and affection. It is powerful to learn forgiveness from an elephant. Although we wish we could help to end the suffering of all animals, we felt that this would be a personal place to share the proceeds.
6. What’s your personal favorite raw food, either in the ebook or not?
Lisa:The raw food I tend to eat the most is kale. I’m a big fan of leafy greens and seem to find a way to enjoy them at every meal. When it comes to desserts I look to the combination of apples, cinnamon and ginger—making a raw apple crisp is my ideal treat.
Nicole:Just like Lisa, I gravitate toward greens (usually in salad form). On the sweeter side, I love the fresh, tangy flavour of lemon—the Lemon Lava Cakes recipe in the ebook is one of my favourites.
7. For someone who isn’t used to cooking this way, what would be the best starter recipe from the book?
The Cinnamon Bun Granola recipe would be a fantastic introduction to Tiny Treats—oats, buckwheat, walnuts and coconut are coated with spices and a thick, date-and-maple-flavoured sauce and then dehydrated (or baked) until dry. The Pecan Date Cookies are also super simple but incredibly delicious and nutrient-dense.
Having made the granola myself, I can only agree! Both The HH and I loved it. And it’s really simple to make! I’m reprinting with permission here (with my own changes in square brackets).
[Lisa and Nicole say:] If we ever open a vegan B&B, this will be on each breakfast-in-bed tray. We would keep the guestrooms full by serving it up differently each day–in a layered parfait glass with sliced apples and almond yogurt, or on top of our favorite banana soft serve, or in special tea cup with a substantial splash of coconut milk. The options are endless.
2 cups (215g) rolled oats
1/2 cup (95g) raw buckwheat groats
1/2 cup (65g) raw walnuts, chopped [I used almonds]
1/2 cup (50g) unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup (40g) raisins [I used goji berries]
1 tbsp (15mL) ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp (2.5mL) sea salt
1/4 tsp (1.25mL) fresh ground nutmeg
1/2 cup (120mL) pure maple syrup [I used coconut nectar and 20 drops stevia]
1/4 cup (50g) Medjool dates, pitted [I used prunes]
2 tbsp (30mL) melted coconut oil
2 tbsp (30mL) water
2 tsp (10mL) pure vanilla extra
1. In a large bowl, stir together the oats, buckwheat, walnuts, shredded coconut, raisins, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg.
2. Using a blender, blend the maple syrup, dates, coconut oil, water and vanilla extract into a smooth, thick sauce.
3. Pour the sauce into the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir until all the dry ingredients are well coated.
4. Transfer the granola to a Teflex-lined dehydrator tray and spread into a thin (about 1/2 inch thick), even layer. Dehydrate for 8 to 10 hours at 115F.
4. Preheat the oven to 300F. Transfer the mixture to a baking tray lined with parchment paper and spread into a thin, even layer. Bake for 25 minutes, gently stirring every 10 minutes to ensure even browning. Allow to cool completely before gently breaking into clusters. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge or at room temperature.
Makes about 6 cups of granola.
Suitable for [with the changes in square brackets]:ACD Stage 3 and beyond, sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg free, soy-free, vegan, lower glycemic.
AND NOW, FOR THE GIVEAWAY!
To enter, please leave a comment letting me know which sweet treat YOU love and would love to see in a whole-foods, refined sugar-free cookbook.
I’m going to keep this one simple: to enter the giveaway, just click the “comment” option in the Rafflecopter box, below, THEN leave your comment in the comments section. That’s it! Giveaway ends Friday, November 2nd at midnight. I’ll choose a winner at random and the name will be announced below. If I don’t hear from the winner within 3 days, I’ll choose another winner.
If you’d like, you can also tweet the giveaway, mention it on Facebook, Pin this page, etc. Any and all mentions (which will ultimately help support the elephant sanctuary) would be welcome!
As many of you know, I spend somequite a bit a crazy amount of time every day on twitter. I love that I’ve been able to strike up acquaintances with other bloggers, writers, nutritionists and companies that way. Well, several months ago, I began to notice tweets about a new (to me) company, Mum’s Original. I was intrigued by how many people were waxing poetic about it. Since the products are carried at my local health food store, I purchased a bag of their hemp seeds and gave them a try. And they were, indeed, great! So when the folks at Mum’s asked if I’d be interested in sampling a bunch more of their products, I jumped at the opportunity.
I’m already a proponent of “superfoods”–those foods that confer health benefits beyond the usual vitamins, minerals, fiber and the like. So even though I was previously famliar with the actual foods themselves, I hadn’t yet tried all of the Mum’s versions. And there were a couple of very pleasant surprises, too!
Here’s what they sent to me:
This amazing stash includes Raw Cacao Powder, Delores Hemp Hearts, White Chia Seeds, Coconut Sugar, Goji Berries, Coconut Cacao Nibs, and Banana Powder.
One of the things I loved about the company was the integrity with which they source and manufacture their products. As they write on their website, their superfoods “are grown with care at our sustainable family owned partnership farms using traditional and artesian methods of cultivation and processing,” even using heirloom seeds whenever possible. In addition, their products are never GMO, are organic, and are free of any man-made toxins in the way of pesticides or chemicals. The company’s owner, Ann Barnes, is herself a mother of two children, and concerned about her kids’ futures and providing healthy foods grown in an ethical manner. And let me tell you, their products are really top-notch!
I was already an avid consumer of cacao, hemp, chia, coconut sugar, goji berries and cacao nibs, so the product that intrigued me most was the banana powder, dehydrated and finely milled vine-ripened organic bananas. I immediately got to experimenting to create a pipe-able banana frosting that would hold up at room temperature (which I piped atop raw mini-cupcakes, as pictured at the top of this post). Of course, those of us on the ACD don’t consume bananas, but at this stage of the game (more than 3 years on the program), I knew that a single bite wouldn’t really affect my condition–and that the HH would be more than happy to polish off the rest (which, lo and behold, he was, in record time!). The results were stellar, with an incredibly intense fresh banana flavor. I bet you will love them, too. I’ll share that recipe tomorrow, so please come back to check it out!
After the cupcakes, I began to work my way through the other products as well. I used the Coconut Cacao nibs as garnish on the banana frosting (see top photo). These are truly ingenious! They’re cacao nibs enrobed in coconut sugar, sort of the way sugared almonds or coffee beans are coated in sugar. I use cacao nibs occasionally, but have always found them a bit too bitter on their own. Mum’s solved that problem perfectly with the cacao-coconut sugar combo! I’d use these in place of chocolate chips, sprinkled on granola, or even as a snack on their own. Again, it’s not something I’d consume on a regular basis on the ACD, but at the later stages, or for anyone looking to minimize their refined sugar intake, this is a brilliant solution.
I had read about the Delores Hemp Hearts, a uniquely Canadian-born form of hemp that an ingenious Manitoba farmer developed. And there’s even a love story involved. . . read about it here. Apart from the story behind it, what I loved about the Delores hemp seeds was that they offer more protein per volume than other types of hemp. And they were, indeed, delicious!
The HH and I dug into the goji berries next. Honestly, these were the biggest, plumpest gojis I’ve ever seen! They were eagerly approved by The Girls as well. (What? Doesn’t everyone give goji berries to their dogs?). I’ve still got the chia seeds and cacao waiting to be used. . . I’ve been kind of hoarding them, since I know they will be exceptionally delicious, too! Overall, I was incredibly impressed by the quality, care, and thought that went was behind each and every one of the products.
“Mum, I agree-those gojis were delicious! Just look at this smile on my face!”
Now I want you to try out these superior products as well! And Mum’s has graciously agreed to provide TWO readers each with this same stellar pack of their superfoods, each worth more than $65!
This giveaway is open to anyone in the US or Canada (so sorry, International readers! I’ve got another giveaway coming up for you, too, next month!). And there are six ways to enter! For this giveaway, I’m trying out a new widget (the box, below) to make entering/picking a winner easier. To begin, just leave a comment on this post. It’s easy–just follow the instructions, below. What do you think of it? Let me know!
And if you just can’t wait for the giveaway. . .SPECIAL DISCOUNT FOR DDD READERS!!
Mum’s has offered a special 15% discount for any online orders for all Diet, Dessert and Dogs readers!! Just order your products via the Mum’s website and key in the code “RICKI” upon checkout. [This is an affiliate discount, so your orders will send a small amount of money my way.]. Go to the Mum’s product page to make your selections and start your purchase.
NOTE: YOU MUST LEAVE A COMMENT FOR THE GIVEAWAY OR YOUR ENTRY WILL BE DISQUALIFIED.
[My own creation, inspired by our group's favorite sample salad. See recipe, below.]
After a whirlwind three days at the Dole Salad Summit, I finally woke up yesterday in my own bed. Glancing out the window, it seemed to me that something was a little “off”: the sky outside looked just a little little less blue, the grass a little less green, the earth a little less burnished. (And the fact that I had to cook my own meals for the first time in 3 days kinda sucked, too).
(“True, Mum, but you have us. Doesn’t that make up for everything? Okay, don’t answer that.“)
Was it the indescribably beautiful landscape that impressed me most? Getting to meet and play with 19 remarkable bloggers, many of whose blogs I’ve been following for a long time? The fabulous food and drink? The resort-like quality of the accommodations? No. What made the greatest impact, for me, was observing the passion and commitment of the Dole employees themselves, learning more about the company as a whole and its practices and policies when it comes to their products.
Along with the enthusiasm and dedication was a clear intention to pay attention and really listen to their consumers’ wants and needs, and to strive to improve wherever they can. I left Monterey having experienced a shift in my own perspective, one that I truly hadn’t anticipated before leaving for the trip.
At the Dole Processing plant and the “Lettuce 101″ tutorial. Could you name more than 28 kinds of lettuce by sight? Naw, me, neither.
Today, I thought I’d share some of the highlights (and believe me, there were many), plus my own impressions over this and the next post.
Oh, and a couple of killer salad recipes, too.
[Warning: Lengthy post ahead. You might want to read for a bit, then stop and have a little salad break before returning to wrap up reading the post.]
[A favorite sample salad: Arugula, Avocado and Mango with Macadamia Nuts]
I. Butter (Lettuce) Me Up in the Morning: A Visit to the Dole Offices and Product Tastings
Our first stop on Thursday after a continental breakfast at our hotel was the Dole Fresh Vegetables office building, where we soaked up some statistics about the company, their products, and the huge variety (200 products!) of vegetables they grow. I learned more than I ever imagined about lettuce and salad (actually, more than I ever imagined there was to learn about lettuce and salad). Interspersed between our roundtable discussion, information on the different types of lettuce and some lively commentary on our favorite ways to use veggies, we were served samples of Dole’s new salad mixes or greens.
The group favorite by far was a combination of arugula with avocado, mango and macadamia nuts in a pineapple vinaigrette (see photo, above), which also inspired my own salad recipe, below.
Another favorite taste test (for me, anyway) was the new Salanova Butter lettuce, a tender, delicate variety that is visually stunning in its resemblance to a giant, blossoming rose, petals hugging a hidden core. One cut across the bottom and each leaf is transformed to a single bite-sized piece. SO tender and delicious! I am counting the days until this baby makes its way to Toronto.
[Standing on the iceberg lettuce field after harvest. The discarded lettuces are turned over for compost. Background: fascinated bloggers. Foreground, a real farmer!]
II. Outstanding in Their Field: Meet the Farmer, Eat Some Lettuce
After the meeting, we hopped on a bus to the Salinas Valley to view some of the lettuce fields and the men at work harvesting. We traipsed over a cushy carpet of iceberg lettuce leaves where the heads had already been harvested, gazed in awe at the harvesters prepping the lettuce for its trip to the processing plant (the lettuce is touched but once by human hands–housed in gloves–before it is sent to the plant and made into your packaged salad mix. How cool is that?), and chatted with Mark Pisoni, who represents a fifth-generation farmer with Dole (note to self: California farmers are definitely more hunky than Ontario farmers).
As we bobbed along the winding California roads, a backdrop of impossibly beautiful mountains and sky, Terry Foley, the General Manager of Commodity Operations, answered a slew of our questions.
Here are some of the key queries (and Terry’s answers) that I found most thought-provoking:
Q. Does Dole grow organic products? I was disappointed to learn that the answer to this question was, sadly, “no.” They are, however, involved with integrative pest management and natural means wherever possible. In one recent study, according to Foley, researchers found that 85% of packaged produce showed no pesticide residue at all. As another blogger noted, “Now that I know that, I may not feel I have to buy organic next time I shop at the grocery store if I see your products there as well.” The fact that the products are mostly “clean” was a huge eye-opener for some of us, and we urged the company to let more people know about that fact.
Q. Does Dole use GMOs at all? No. A clear win.
Q. What kind of packaging does the company use for their salads? Recyclable plastic that is made from 70% previously recycled materials. Again, win-ning!*
Q. Does Dole grow its own vegetables? The surprising answer here was, again, “No.” Obviously, Dole could easily farm their own produce, but they choose to do only about 10% of the direct growing. The remaining 90% of their produce is grown by independent farmers with whom they’ve established long-term relationships (in one case, up to five generations with the same family). In fact, I was struck that so many of the growers and harvesters have been with the company for as long as they have; the company has, clearly, spent a lot of time and effort to build mutually beneficial, long-term connections with farmers and other workers. I was repeatedly impressed by the Dole employees’ passion, enthusiasm and knowledge about their company, its operations and products.
[Field workers handling lettuce--but only once.]
While I’ve always been aware of Dole and certainly purchase their pineapples and bananas on a regular basis, the salad mixes were, as a rule, generally outside my purview; I mean, my subconscious mind was aware of their existence as they glided through my peripheral vision, but I didn’t think one way or the other about them. My preference was always for organic.
Over the course of this event, however, those veggies took on a new connotation: like the nerdy guy in high school who finally got a good haircut, decent clothes and switched from plastic glasses to wire rims–hey! I’d consider dating him now!–my impression changed. While I certainly hadn’t harbored a negative impression of Dole, I’d say my previous feeling was, at best, neutral. After learning as much as I did, however, I’d now feel perfectly happy eating these mixes. For those who don’t want to spend the extra on organic, or don’t have access to a farmers’ market, or simply want the convenience of buying all their food in one place, I’d certainly consider them.
What do you think? Have you ever tried Dole salads or lettuces? What’s your impression of the company?
A short bus ride later, we found ourselves at La Bicylette, a quaint, authentically French corner bistro in the heart of Carmel.
Now, normally, one would never connect authentic French food–cream sauces, butter, poached salmon, butter, cream, butter and a smidge more butter–with the anti-candida diet.
[My carrot risotto was so good that one of the non-vegans at our table preferred to share mine rather than the cream-laden one!]
However, after conferring with our tour organizers, Amanda and Kelly, who conferred with the restaurant’s floor manager, Caroline, who checked with the two sous-chefs, James and Christophe, those of us at the “Special” Table (Dana, Amie, Irvin, Shannalee and Tim, Stephanie and I) were treated to an impeccable meal, perfectly plated and presented. First up were mixed greens and beet salad, followed by vegan Carrot Risotto and a brimming plate of grilled mixed veggies and toasted hazelnuts. The risotto practically exuded richness while somehow remaining fairly light, offering a hint of orange zest from within the mounds of carrot-soaked arborio.
As we decompressed from the morning’s activities, our chatter overtook the space and we talked about all that we’d learned, the surreal surroundings, organic vs. conventional produce, the beauty of Monterey and Carmel, our blogs (of course), travel, tattoos and photography; and we learned that Amie really, really likes salsa.
[Almond-Berry Tart slices.]
Dessert was a lavish sliced almond-berry tart and chocolate mousse (I savored a huge bowl of fresh berries instead. Let me tell you, they sure know how to grow them in California. Easily the best berries I’ve ever eaten). Satiated and happy, we practically rolled ourselves into the bus to make the trek to our penultimate stop of the day.
IV Final Stop Pre-Dinner: The Processing Plant
By this time, we were all a little faded after trudging through the fields and hopping on and off the bus (What? You mean you don’t feel sorry for me?), but we were instantly re-energized and enthralled by our tour of the Dole processing plant, where the work of cleaning and packaging the salads takes place.
Gil Oetzel, Director of New Product Development, conducted a mini tutorial and fun quiz on the myriad varieties of lettuce before we were ushered into the plant itself to observe the operation in action. There, we were entranced by the men and women who cleaned, dried, bagged, boxed and shipped the salad mixes, all with a coordination, precision and grace that is usually reserved for the ballet stage. For me, this was (another!) high point of the day.
[Who knew that romaine could look this pretty?]
The final food-related event of the trip occurred Thursday evening, when the folks at Dole threw a spectacular party for us on the hotel’s outdoor terrace; the next morning, just before leaving, we took a tour of 17-Mile Drive and Pebble Beach. But given the monumental length of this post already, I’ll share more about those next time!
Instead, I’ll leave you with my latest salad creation, highlighting mango (or pear) combined with avocado, pine nuts, and a base of baby greens (in this case, arugula, spinach, mizuna, and radicchio) in a light and tangy pineapple-tarragon dressing.
Like the earlier pineapple-based dressing I made, this one uses fresh pineapple and veggies for much of the base, allowing for less oil in the mix. The pineapple in this dressing is my nod to Kelly’s orignal, which she presented to us Thursday morning. I shared it with the HH this evening, and it transported me back to bluer skies, greener fields and an expansive carpet of iceberg lettuce beneath my feet.
* I sincerely apologize for the Charlie Sheen reference. In fact, there is no real connection between Sheen and Dole at all. Though I suspect that Charlie could probably stand to eat more salad.
This salad was inspired by our group’s favorite sample at the Dole Fresh Vegetables offices. The pineapple in the dressing adds sweetness and tang, while the cucumber provides bulk and a slight creaminess.
For the Salad:
7-8 cups (1.7-1.9 liters) mixed baby greens (I used one package of Dole’s “Sassy Baby Blend” with spinach, arugula, mizuna and radicchio)
1 mango, sliced, or a ripe Packham or Bartlett Pear, cored and sliced (use pear for the ACD)
1 just-ripe avocado, peeled, cored and sliced
1/4 cup (60 ml) lightly toasted pine nuts
2 green onions, white and light green parts only, sliced
For the Dressing:
1 cup (240 ml) fresh pineapple chunks
1 cup (240 ml) fresh peeled cucumber chunks
1/4-1/3 cup (60-80 ml) fresh cilantro leaves, to your taste
2 green onions, white and green parts only, cut in chunks
[Post-presentations with (left to right) Cara of Cara's Cravings and Amy of Simply Sugar and Gluten Free (one of the two Wonder Women behind the conference!), and me. We're thrilled to finally meet each other in person!]
I couldn’t let the weekend go by without posting a quick recap of my time at Nourished, the very first food bloggers’ conference for all of us on special diets–gluten free, dairy free, vegan, SCD, low amine, FODMAP, and any other specialty diet you can think of. And the conference was a smashing success! I left feeling uplifted, educated inspired, and–in every sense of the word, Nourished.
I can’t thank Amy and Jen enough for inviting me to be part of this incredible event and for everything they did to make it as amazing as it was. Many thanks also go out to everyone who attended (many of you from far and wide!), to all of you who sat in on my presentation and let me know what you thought of it, to each and every one of you who came over and said “hello” (it was SO great to meet so many of you in person!!) and all the nice folks who fed us such great gluten-free food all weekend!
One huge lesson I learned on a personal level is I absolutely need to get myself a laptop computer! Even worse, I don’t have a smart phone and I don’t text message (yes, I know–I am, like, 114 years old). As a result, I was virtually offline for 2 days. Not a great idea when you are at a food bloggers’ conference! I wish I’d been quicker on the draw with my trusty point-and-shoot to capture the hoards of audience members all tweeting away on their laptops and phones. Very impressive! In the end, I was so overwhelmed by all the happenings that I forgot to take very many photos. But I will share them all here with you!
[We vegans were well-nourished throughout the event, too! A huge number of sponsors provided snacks and food throughout, like this buffet lunch. My meal: a big mound of hummus, carrot-cucumber salad, Mediterranean salad, and two of the most amazing lentil-chickpea flour flatbreads I've ever tasted, topped with coconut chutney. YUM!]
Receiving a bag of almond flour from Jenilyn–one of the most thoughtful gestures I’ve ever encountered! I can’t believe you lugged it all the way to the conference!! Thanks again, so much, for the gift, Jenilyn xo
Spending a laugh-filled dinner with many of the folks mentioned above
Actually presenting at the conference (I talked about attracting and retaining a mainstream audience for your specialty blog). Thanks once again to Katie for all her hard work in setting it up–I am so techno-challenged!
Chatting with the local CBS Affiliate station about gluten free eating–stay tuned for their piece on the rise of Gluten Free!
Finding actual FOOD that I could eat at a conference!! Of course, I brought along some of my own travel-friendly foods, just in case. But there were vegan options aplenty, including a huge, fully packed swag bag of samples from all the sponsors, and surprise snack-packs of Cybele’s new line of allrgy-friendly cookies in our final session (vegan but not sugar free–though the HH scarfed them down pretty darned quickly when I offered them to him later on).
A gorgeous hotel room that was large even by the HH’s standards (not always easy when you’re 6’1″ tall). Everything was comfy, gorgeous and plush. We felt extremely spoiled!!
Traveling Porter Airlines–the easiest, most streamlined, organized and hassle-free air travel on the continent (The HH and I love Porter–and no, I don’t know anyone who works there!).
Sessions provided all kinds of information about blogging for special diets and how to improve the quality of your blog overall.The energy and enthusiasm at the event was palpable. Food bloggers are the best, aren’t they?
I’m already scheming to figure out how I can make it to the next one, coming up in September in Dallas. I can only imagine that Nourished will continue to grow and quickly become one of the top-drawing conferences in the foodie community.
Kudos to both Jen and Amy for a fun, jam-packed, spectacular, and incredibly memorable event. I’m still floating on the energy and buzz from the day. And for those of you lucky enough to have stayed in the area for the Gluten Free Expo, all I can say is, “wish I were there!”
“Mum, glad you’re home and everything, but you could have stayed for that Expo–no rush to get home! We were having a blast with our furry cousins at your friends PR Queen and Eternal Optimist’s houses. And being a guest means we get offered treats more liberally–so we felt nourished, too!”
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Before I begin this review–and in the spirit of full disclosure–I must confess to you all that my opinions in this blog post are biased.
No, not because I was paid to do this review (which I wasn’t); not because I received a free copy of the book (which I did); and not because I was asked to write something specific by the publishers (which I wasn’t). No, it’s because my own personal views of the author and her work have undoubtedly influenced what I will write here.
You see, ever since I first discovered the cookbooks of Nava Atlas (classics like Vegetariana; or Vegan Express; or Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews) , I’ve been in love with her recipes. They tend to embody “my” kind of food: mostly whole foods, lots of comfort-food dishes, innovative and interesting combinations of flavors, textures, spices and herbs. Good, hearty fare.
And while we’re on the topic of true confessions, let me also admit that when I find myself with a bunch of unassigned broccoli in my fridge, or a few lone kiwis in the fruit bowl, or a butternut squash lingering on the counter, it’s to Atlas’s books that I turn first to see what she’ll offer. I have never made a Nava Atlas recipe that didn’t work according to directions; and I’ve never made a Nava Atlas recipe that I didn’t like.
So, with that declaration off my chest (whew!), and both Easter and Passover just around the corner, I’ll move right to my review of the book. And I’m sure it will be no surprise to learn that I think highly of this one, too.
As it turns out, most of us do judge a book by its cover, and Vegan Holiday Kitchenis a visually beautiful book. Warm, earthy tones and opulent gilt edging grace its cover (along with a show-stopping photo by Susan Voisin–she of Fat Free Vegan fame–whose photos also occupy the interior of the book). The exceptional production values are evident throughout, from paper that’s thick and sturdy, to text that’s easy to read, to additional tips and notes and winsome line drawings (which I assume are Atlas’s own–the woman is also a talented visual artist) on chapter headers. Recipes are written in an easy-to-follow, clear and concise style, each one indicating specific dietary restrictions for which it is suitable.
The introduction offers various useful tips on how to navigate the holiday season as a vegan who may be strapped for time, invited to an omnivorous celebration, hosting an event, or wishing to make certain dishes ahead of time (while not Atlas’s preference, she does include a few pointers nonetheless).
Chapters cover all major holidays such as Thanksgiving; Christmas (and the attendant holiday season in general); Jewish holidays (Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Hanukkah); Independence Day and Summer Entertaining (applicable to any summer holiday); and an entire chapter on Brunches, Appetizers and Potluck Dishes (for which this brunch lover was very grateful). Each chapter begins with an entertaining and informative section that discusses the holiday and how it can be adapted as a vegan celebration.
The first recipe I made may well be the most famous from the book (at least, I keep seeing photos of it floating around the blogosphere): the Red Quinoa Pilaf with Kale and Corn. Deceptively simple to put together, this is a filling, warming and satisfying dish highlighted by an unusual pairing of rosemary and cumin. I took Atlas’s advice and added beans to convert the side dish to a main meal. The smoky roasted peppers complemented the sweet, juicy pop of corn kernels and firm bite of kale in each mouthful. This would make a wonderful autumn or winter dish for any occasion.
Next up was the Squash, Sweet Potato and Corn Chowder. Initially, I chose this soup as a vehicle to use up the rest the bag of organic corn I’d purchased for the pilaf (and since I love sweet potatoes beyond measure, I’m happy to eat themanywhichway). Upon reading the recipe (which combines butternut squash along with the sweet potato in a slightly sweet, slightly chunky soup), I was concerned that the spices might prove too strong for the delicate flavors of the vegetables. But once the soup simmered according to instructions, it softened and developed a perfectly smooth and subtle flavor with a great savory undertone. The HH had nothing but praise for this one and made me promise to make it again.
Finally, I turned to the Spectacular Spring Salad. With my recent decision to cut back a bit on grains, I’ve been enjoying a variety of salads, most of them featuring my favorite green, kale, as the base. Since we don’t regularly consume the bitter greens in this salad (watercress, arugula and radicchio), it seemed like a good choice. Combined with more common ingredients such as radishes, avocado and carrots, it was, indeed, a spectacular tangle with greens, sprouts and seeds. Tossed with a simple, fresh dressing, it created a perfect first course.
On my list of recipes still to try are Moroccan-Flavored Tofu with Apricots and Olives; Corn Fritters with Cilantro Sauce; Watermelon and Peach Gazpacho; White Bean and Sun-dried Tomato Pate; Sweet Potato-Poppyseed Coleslaw; and Rice and Pecan Stuffed Squash. But honestly, this list is bound only by my dietary restrictions; if I could eat mushrooms, or gluten (some of the recipes for desserts look divine), or maple syrup, well–I’d likely have tagged every single recipe in the book.
I may be biased, but if you’re heading into the holidays next week still looking for menu options; or if you’ve invited someone at your table to whom you’d like to give a worthwhile gift; or if you’re planning ahead for warm weather Bar-B-Q’s and brunches–well, get yourself to the closest bookstore buy Vegan Holiday Kitchen. I know that, like Atlas’s other books in my collection, this one is destined to be my go-to source any time I’m planning a special occasion meal.
[I should have just given up on the sticky notes, because I want to try Every. Single. Recipe. in this book!!]
Okay, so if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time at all, you know that I am decidedly not the type of gal to attend a rave. (Read: too old. And even when I wasn’t too old, I was too health conscious. And, well, even when I wasn’t too old or too health conscious, I was too nerdy.). So when I say, “rave,” you probably know I’m referring to the verb rather than the noun; as in, “I simply can’t rave enough about this spectacular new cookbook that has quickly assumed a place among my all-time favorites!” (And believe me, with over 200 cookbooks cramming my shelves at the moment, that is saying a lot).
Full disclosure: as with most reviews I write here on DDD, this book was provided free of charge by Christy’s publishers and I was not required to write anything positive about it (or anything at all, for that matter). You may know Christy Morgan as “The Blissful Chef,” whose blog,ebooks and live cooking classes have been offering up healthy, delicious recipes to eager masses for several years now. Christy also chronicles her culinary adventures (from LA to Texas and elsewhere), on her Facebook page.
Before we begin, however, I feel I must be entirely honest and admit that I was already somewhat biased in favor of the book even before receiving it. You see, I had done a review of one of her previous ebooks, Cooking with the Seasons: Summer Edition, last year, so I already knew I had loved those recipes and suspected I’d like these as well. Perhaps even more important, I was aware that Christy’s focus on traditional plant-based diets (vegetarian, vegan, macrobiotic, low fat and raw foods) jibed well with the ACD and I’d probably find lots of recipes I could eat within my dietary restrictions, with a minimum of adjustments to boot.
Well, let me tell you, this book is aptly titled. I was literally blissed out as I leafed through this gorgeous tome, which provides not only a full explanation of Christy’s approach to food and eating; a complete list of pantry basics and tools plus various chef’s techniques (now you’ll know just how to chiffonade–perfectly!); over 175 recipes organized by seasons (as well as “anytime”); but also a full resources section at the back and a metric conversion table. The full-color photos offer mouth-watering illustrations of many of the recipes, and the book’s pages are printed on thick, sturdy paper, an important detail when you plan to subject your book to repeated, regular usage (as I most definitely do!).
I literally couldn’t decide what to make first, there were so many recipes that appealed to me–and that I was permitted to have on the ACD! Should I try the Orange-Pumpkin-Ginger French Toast? Or perhaps the Asian Millet and Quinoa Pilaf? Maybe the Blissful Two-Bean Harvest Chili? Eventually, I settled on Kale Salad with Curry-Coconut Sauce, simply because I already had all the ingredients on hand.
[Damn these dark winter evenings. . . this photo totally does not do the dish justice!]
I’m going to preface this next comment by saying that the HH is a very picky omnivore. In other words, he has no trouble whatsoever eating hocks, haunches, brains, kidneys, hearts–even intestines of animals, but will balk at “veggie” foods I serve, such as grated daikon radish (“What is that? Anemic carrot?“), chia seeds (“Looks like fish droppings“) or spirulina (“Isn’t that the water you cleaned your brush in for your watercolor painting?”). Needless to say, he wasn’t thrilled about eating a salad with arame (seaweed) as a major player.
Well, we both swooned over this salad. When I first read the ingredient list, I was a bit concerned about the quantities in the sauce–it seemed like SO much spice–but mixed with the still-moist kale and arame, it was perfect. A spicy, creamy, slightly nutty coating on firm, toothsome kale with light marine influences. I simply loved it, and the HH even requested it again!
Next up was the Broccoli Salad with Creamy Mustard Dressing. If you’re familiar with that once-ubiquitous broccoli salad from buffets a few years back, this dish will evoke memories of those times. . .but vastly improved. The piquant dijon is balanced by the sweet (I used stevia instead of the suggested maple syrup); the crispy, green and fresh with a creamy sauce and crunch of radishes. An aesthetically pleasing as well as flavorful mix of ingredients.
We also thoroughly enjoyed the Wasabi Sweet Potato Salad, which had been beckoning me from the moment I first spied the recipe. I adore sweet potatoes, of course, and have had them spiced in sweet potato fries, but never with something quite so hot as wasabi. Again, I wondered at the proportions of the spice mix in the ingredients, but should have trusted Christy. The sum worked out to be greater than the parts, and I loved this salad as well (I had run out of the called-for cucumbers, so subbed radish instead; still worked wonderfully). I could have eaten the entire batch by myself!
[I swear, it's not tomato sauce! But even tastier.]
Next up was another ingenious, fantastic recipe: the Mama Mia Magnifico Sauce, ideal for those who are either allergic to tomatoes or can’t eat nightshade vegetables (eg, those with arthritis). I didn’t tell the HH that this sauce was tomato-free, and he had absolutely no idea. When I finally let the cat out of the bag, he was genuinely surprised and commented that this was “as good as any tomato-based pasta sauce we’ve ever had.” I concur. I loved it on pasta, of course, but also used it the next day on a grain-free pizza crust, and later, defrosted, with crumbled frozen tofu for a sloppy joe lunch. You’ll be amazed by this one!
And I just couldn’t resist one more. . . while I don’t eat many sandwiches (or much bread at all, for that matter), I have always made an exception for Reubens, one of the most satisfying combinations of protein, complex carbs and creamy dressing I can imagine in existence. I couldn’t resist giving Christy’s healthified version a try. The marinated tempeh and tangy Russian-style dressing complemented each other marvelously, and the use of avocado in lieu of standard melted cheese was a brilliant way to incorporate the smooth creaminess you’d expect without the dairy or any artificial ingredients. The HH actually ate two of these (as open-faced sandwiches). With leftovers the next day, I enjoyed mine à la raw, wrapped in a crisp collard leaf, like so:
I literally can’t wait to cook through this entire book (counting the days until I can use maple syrup again. . . ), there are so many appealing recipes in it.
If you’re looking for a cookbook filled with mouth watering, healthy and flavorful plant-based recipes that are also impressive to the eye, I’d recommend Blissful Bitesas your first choice. I love that Christy focuses on whole foods ingredients, low fat and low sweeteners (and when she does use sweeteners, they’re all natural, like maple syrup or brown rice syrup). If you’re on a restricted diet (as I am), this book will likely still offer up a plethora of recipes you can enjoy.
Now, go out and find your Bliss(ful Bites)! (PS. Just checked–if you order through amazon.com, you can still receive it in time for Christmas with 2-day shipping!).
And Happy Hanukkah to everyone who’s celebrating tonight!
This is a healthy plant-based take on salads you may have had at a salad bar or at potlucks. It is easy to make and will be a crowd-pleaser at get-togethers. It’s also a great way to use leftover beans. if you throw in some cooked quinoa, it makes a one-pot meal perfect to take to work for lunch.
1 large crown broccoli, cut into florets
1 large carrot, grated
1 cup (240 ml) cooked chickpeas, or 1 can (15 oz/500 ml) drained and rinsed
[Hearty, slurpy, stick-to-your-ribs Lentil and Almond Tagine]
Up until last month, the only tagine I had ever eaten were this one ** or one at a small Middle Eastern restaurant that the HH and I went to in the early days of our relationship. But then I was contacted by the lovely Martine from Robert Rose publishers, wondering if I’d like to review Pat Crocker’s latest oeuvre, 150 Best Tagine Recipes, and the amazing world of tagines opened up for me.
If you’ve never heard of tagines, you’re in for a treat. The word tagine refers both to the Moroccan clay pot used for slow-cooking a meal or side dish, and also the very meal or side dish that results (don’t you just love the efficiency of those Moroccans?). The (edible) tagine is a thick, rich, slowly-simmered kind of stew that can contain almost any ingredients you fancy, from meat (um, nope) to poultry (nada) to seafood (nuh-uh) to legumes (getting warmer) and all manner of vegetables (jackpot!). It’s also always deeply spiced with a mixture of aromatic blends with African influences. . . Think of it, as Jamie Oliver does, as “stew with attitude.”
At first, I was a little concerned that (given the traditional tagine ingredients) I wouldn’t find much in the book I could cook. But I was assured that the vegetable chapter would provide me with ample choice.
Turns out that was only partly true. There are 16 vegetable tagine recipes in the book; however, considering that there are also full chapters devoted to each of poultry, lamb, beef, and fish/seafood, I’m not sure I’d purchase the book if I were simply browsing in a bookstore looking for a new vegan cookbook. After all, there are so many other wonderful vegan cookbooks on the market right now (in fact, my next book review is going to focus on one of them!). That said, however, the book also contains quite a few recipes for salad and sides, dips and other finger foods as well as beverages and sweets; and it has tons to offer for gluten-free eaters, as tagines are naturally gluten free.
Chapter topics move from a general introduction to a detailed explanation of the concept of tagine cooking, its history and traditional equipment used, to the evolution of the modern (and stovetop) tagine. Crocker also covers information about traditional spices and seasonings used, common ingredients, and traditional spice blends (for which she includes recipes).
Because I don’t own a traditional tagine, I opted to cook the first recipe I sampled using the stovetop method described in the book (basically cooking the ingredients in a large pot with a lid). While it worked just fine, I wondered if I were somehow missing out on the true intent of the recipes, as the cooking time for stovetop preparation was under 30 minutes, when true tagine cooking can take hours. So, for my second attempt, I popped the ingredients into a casserole and baked at a leisurely pace. The result was spectacular: flavors melded beautifully, spices developed their full potential, chunks of veggies caramelized and exuded natural juices to season the entire stew.
When you make these recipes at home, I’d recommend baking in the oven rather than cooking on the stovetop if you have the time (unless you own a stovetop tagine, of course).
And so, on to the recipes!
The first recipe I tried was Lentil and Almond Tagine (see top photo), an aromatic mix of red peppers, lentils, tomatoes and toasted almonds. Both the HH and I loved the Bahrat Spice blend that was included (recipe from the book) and the hearty mix of toothsome lentils with soft, sweet squash.
Next up was the Eggplant and Lentil Tagine, which I decided to bake in the oven to reproduce more of an authentic tagine effect. I used store-bought garam masala for this spice mix (one of the suggested options) and while it was delicious, both the HH and I thought the casserole could have used even more spice.
[Subtly spiced Eggplant and Lentil Tagine]
Finally, I tried out a side-dish tagine, which may actually have been my favorite of the three. As you may know, I already love beets; but this is one dish that anyone can enjoy. As the headnote to the recipe states: “Slightly sweet, this colorful side dish tagine is often enjoyed by ardent beet haters.” That’s quite a confident statement, and one with which I’d concur! The spiced, sweet-and-sour broth is a perfect medium for the delectable roots. This tagine also offers the surprise tartness of green apples (which, by the time I snapped the picture, had absorbed the vibrant fuschia of the beets). And it even included some sliced fennel–the only way I’ve ever loved that veggie!
[My favorite, Beet Tagine--it will make a convert of you!]
Want to Try Tagines? Win a Copy for Yourself!
If you’re already a fan of tagines or just curious to give them a try, the kind folks at Robert Rose are offering a free copy to a DDD reader!
How to Enter: Entering the giveaway couldn’t be easier: just leave a comment here telling me whether you’ve ever tried a tagine (and if so, how you liked it) OR what about a tagine appeals to you.
Second and subsequent entries: you can gain extra entries by subscribing to this blog, following DDD on Facebook, following me on twitter, posting about this on your own blog or Facebook page, tweeting about it (be sure to include @rickiheller in the tweet so I see it), or checking out the Pat Crocker page from Robert Rose and telling me which of her other books you think you’d enjoy.
For each additional entry, please be sure to come back here and leave a comment telling me you did so!
The giveaway will run until midnight my time this Wednesday, November 30th. I’ll announce the winners later in the week. Open to anyone in North America (with huge apologies to my international readers!).
To get you in the mood, here’s a recipe from the book (which you can enjoy wherever you are).
1 fresh hot chile pepper, chopped (I used jalapeno)
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 Tbsp (15 ml) sweet paprika
2 tsp (10 ml) Bahrat Spice Blend (see below)
1 cup yellow, red or brown lentils, rinsed (I used brown)
1 can (19 oz/540 ml) diced tomatoes, with juice
2 cups (500 ml) diced pumpkin or squash (I used butternut squash)
1/4 cup (60 ml) ground almonds
2 cups (500 ml) shredded swiss chard (I included stems)
1/2 cup (125 ml) toasted whole almonds
In the bottom of a flameproof tagine (or dutch oven), heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, chile pepper, bell pepper, paprika and spice blend and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. [Note: I found the mixture really stuck to the bottom of the pan this way; I deglazed with a splash of vegetable broth.] Add lentils and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes with juice and bring to a boil.
Cover with tagine lid, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes or until lentils are tender. Add pumpkin and ground almonds, replace lid and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in Swiss chard, replace lid and simmer for 5 minutes or until greens are wilted and pumpkin is tender. Garnish with whole almonds.
Makes 4 servings. May be frozen.
Bahrat Spice Blend:
2 Tbsp (30 ml) coriander seeds
4 tsp (20 ml) cumin seeds
1 piece (1 inch/2.5 cm) cinnamon, crushed
5 whole cloves
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) cardomom seeds
2 Tbsp (30 ml) paprika
1 tsp ground sumac, optional (I left it out)
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) ground nutmeg
In the bottom of a small tagine or frypan, combine the coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. Toast over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes or until lightly colored and fragrant. Remove from diret heat just as the seeds pop; do not let the spices smoke and burn.
In a mortar and pestle or electric grinder, pound or grind the toasted spices until coarse or finely ground. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the paprika, sumac (if using) and nutmeg.
Store in an airtight (preferably dark) glass jar with lid in a cool place for up to 3 months. Makes 1/4 cup (60 ml).
**Thanks to Johanna for reminding me about the olive-quinoa one! Since I can’t eat most of the ingredients in it any more, I must have wiped it from my memory.
Last Year at this Time: Borscht to Beet Stress (gluten free; ACD All Stages)