Hope you all had a fantastic holiday! Over here in the DDD household, we’ve had a wonderful time the past few days, what with the HH on holidays between Christmas and New Year’s.
(“Yes, Mum, we’ve loved it, too! It’s great to have those extra trail-walks. . . and play time. . . and. . . ooh, whatever that yummy food is called! Um. . . do you think I could have some more of that stuff?”)
After scrambling at a cougar’s pace (that would be the feline kind, not the Courtney-Cox kind) the last few weeks to complete my work at the college (ie, marking last-minute assignments and over 170 exams within the space of 4 days); keep up with writing commitments; and buy gifts for my loved ones (then wrap and give said gifts to their intended recipients)–on Christmas Eve, finally, I began to unwind, think about some serious chillaxing, and prepare for a fabulous festive feast (including triple alliteration, no less).
“Yeah, Mum, chillaxing is great this time of year! I’m feeling toasty warm over here by the fireplace. Oh, and by the way, I’m happy to help with leftovers. . . you know what I’m talking about.”
This year, the HH announced once again that he would like a tradtional turkey dinner. As regular readers of this blog likely know, my honey is a devoted carnivore. Most days, this state of affairs presents no problem at all: we coexist peacefully; he eats his meat at lunch time, or orders off restaurant menus when we dine out; or he cooks his own steaks or hamburgers and consumes my dinner as his side dish. (For a good description of how another vegan-omni couple works it out in a similar way, see JL’s recent post). A huge turkey, however, is another matter entirely.
“Yeah–turkey–that’s what it’s called! So, did I hear you say, ‘turkey,’ Mum?”
One thing I love about the HH is his full acceptance of me–quirks, blemishes, and all, including aspects of myself that even I find difficult to tolerate. Neurotic tirades about germs, disease, airplanes, strange noises in the house at night, having to wash the dishes just so–et cetera–are all met with (mostly) patient, even responses or calm rebuttals. In the nearly-15 years we’ve been together, my sweetie has witnessed my physical proportions vacillate wildly a half dozen times, bouncing between an initially svelte, mini skirted physique to that of an engorged beach ball (nearly 200 pounds at the height of my candida woes in 2009). And not once–not even in a whisper–has he ever uttered a negative word about my weight, acted less affectionate, or suggested that I might like to go on a diet.
And so, on Christmas Day, after sleeping in and chasing the lethargy with a shot of coffee (the HH) and matcha tea (moi), we opened our presents in front of the fireplace. And then the HH got to work cooking his turkey.
After he popped it in the oven, he played sous-chef for me, chopping veggies, sautéing onions, slicing potatoes and trimming brussels sprouts.
[Perfect gluten-free stuffing waiting to go into the oven.]
["That's pretty nice music, Mum! Perfect for listening while waiting for more turkey. . . "]
Throughout the day as we reclined and prepped, we snacked intermittently on this cranberry-crusted cashew goat-cheese log I’d made (simply whir about half of them in a blender to create a paste, then mix with the remaining whole berries and press the mess into your cheese; bake at 250F/120 C for 20 minutes to set). Heavenly!
[Cranberry-Crusted Cashew Goat Cheese on oat crackers. . . almost made me forget about the meal!]
My final menu included Fava Bean Balls (I loved the flavor but not the texture–I’ll keep working on it and post the recipe once I perfect it) with Apple-Cranberry Sauce; Creamy Whipped Kabocha (processed with soaked raw cashews and a splash of lemon juice for a sour-cream effect); Scalloped Potatoes adapted from Alta’s recipe; our favorite brussels sprouts; gluten-free stuffing (loosely based on this recipe); and onion gravy. It was an incredible, indulgent, celebratory meal, and we relished every bite. In fact, I even enjoyed it again the next day for lunch:
The HH savored his turkey, too, alongside all the same sides as me. And because it was far too much for the HH alone, he shared amply with The Girls, who, it seemed to me, reacted much the way Marilyn Monroe did to a moving camera, or William S Burroughs did to a bag of cocaine on the table, or a gas stovetop element does to a lit match. In fact, I’d say that Chaser still gets that “crazy eye” look any time someone utters the word, “turkey.”
["What? What's that you say? Oh, no, Mum, you're totally wrong about that. No way, Mum. Oh, I can stop any time I want. Really. No problem. No worries. It's just that I like turkey. I choose to eat turkey. I mean. . . hey, by the way, is there any more? I mean, I wouldn't mind some turkey. . . I'd actually love a little turkey. . . just a little. . . just one piece. . . . "]
For dessert, I attempted my very first Sticky Toffee Pudding, combining recipes from both Angela and Lexie. The result was a thick, dense, spiced cake rendered gooey and sticky from soaking in toffee sauce, with a hefty scoop of Caramel Ice Cream alongside, also doused in more sauce (sorry, no photo–we lapped it up pretty quickly). While The HH loved the dessert, I would have been happier with just the ice cream and sauce.
By this morning, I was ready to revert to lighter fare and more of my regular routine. Ever since you all weighed in on what you’d like to see here, I’ve also been thinking about quicker, easier dishes for the Flash in the Pan series of recipes.
This breakfast is a hybrid of a classic chia pudding and a breakfast smoothie. It can be prepared the night before and left in the fridge to soften and plump up overnight. The pudding combines some of my favorite smoothie ingredients (rice protein powder, avocado, rice milk, cacao) with the texture of a pudding, resulting in a high-protein, high Omega-3 meal-in-a-bowl that provides a whole host of other health benefits as well. Pillowy soft, luxuriously creamy and rich tasting, this breakfast is a quick way to acquire a full serving of protein in what tastes like a dessert. It’s a great way to use up those ripe avocados on your countertop, too.
I can’t think of a better way to cap off the holiday feasting. Can you?
“Well, Mum, if you really want to know, I’s say that another slice of that turkey would do just fine. . . but chances aren’t looking too good at the moment. I may as well just give up on it for now. . . *Sigh*.”
And finally. . . your opinion, please!
I loved learning what you’d like to see on the blog in 2012 (and please feel free to keep those ideas coming in the comments!). For now, I’ve got a more immediate question for y’all (I already asked this one on Facebook, so if you answered there, thanks!): The HH and I have been invited to the home of a friend of a friend for a New Year’s Eve bash. All I know about this gent is that he’s a true gourmet who loves to cook and eat. I’ve been asked to bring a sweet treat and am considering the following three (note that they’re not ACD friendly or gluten free–but then again, these are for a crowd of conventional eaters).
A great no-cook, prepare-ahead breakfast that you can pack up and bring to the office for those mornings you have no time for a nourishing meal as you rush out the door. It makes a great light lunch, too, alongside a crisp, fresh salad.
Place everything but the chia seeds in a strong blender and blend until perfectly smooth. Pour into a container and stir in the chia seeds. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, then stir again to ensure that all the seeds are submerged. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator overnight. Stir again before serving. Makes 2 servings. Will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Welcome to the new year, and to the first SOS Kitchen Challenge of 2011! It’s hard for me to believe that we’re already at January 4th–seems as if the HH and I just celebrated Christmas! Thanks, all, for your New Year’s wishes and for the great response to my call for recipe testers. I’ve been a bit overwhelmed by the response and will get back to everyone this week. I’m looking forward to cooking with you in 2011!
Now that the HH’s holiday from work is over (Canadians had a day off yesterday to compensate for New Year’s falling on a Saturday), it’s back to our regularly scheduled blogging. . . Kim and I are both refreshed after our holiday season, ready and raring to kick off this year’s SOS Challenges with a bang.
Our featured ingredient this month is something that both of us use almost daily in our kitchens. In fact, we’re both so coconuts for it that we want to share some with one lucky participant through a giveaway at the end of the month. This ingredient is versatile for cooking, baking, bath and body applications, and has some impressive nutritional and medicinal characteristics. It is a solid at some temperatures, and a liquid at others. And it smells like the tropics.
What could it be?
Drum roll please…
[Beautiful, white, fragrant chunks of coconut oil. Cold temperatures mean very solid oil!]
Coconut oil is extracted from the meat of the coconut. High in lauric acid, caprylic acid, capric acid, medium chain fatty acids (MCFA), antioxidants, vitamin E, and vitamin K, coconut oil is definitely at the top of the “healthy fat” category. Don’t worry about the high saturated fat content–the high concentration of medium chain triglycerides in the oil are said to assimilate well, converting directly to energy in the body.
Although we can’t technically say that coconut oil has specific medicinal or curative properties, keep in mind that many of the naturally occurring properties of coconut oil such as lauric acid, caprylic acid, and capric acid function as natural antimicrobial agents, and may help strengthen the immune system. Coconut oil is also very versatile for health and body applications; it can be used foroil pulling, topically as a moisturizer or massage oil, as a carrier oil for essential oils, and as a hair treatment (note: I’ve never actually tried oil pulling, though I would be willing to give it a go. The link was provided by Kim. But I did get a kick out of the second video on that page!).
Unlike olive oil or other popular plant oils like flax, sunflower, or canola, coconut oil is NOT destroyed or changed chemically from its original form by using low heat. The medium chain fatty acids present in coconut oil are very resistant to any change via heat. Even commercial oils heated to a very high temperature have their medium chain fatty acids kept intact. This makes coconut oil one of the best oils to use in cooking and baking, because it does not break down easily. It can be used as a replacement for butter in any recipe, since it often behaves much like butter (solid at room temperature and liquid when hot). It is also wonderful spread it on bread or muffins instead of butter; you can add a dollop to smoothies or hot chocolate; or melt it over cooked vegetables or grains. The uses are endless!
[Coconuts on a coconut palm tree in St. Petersburg, Florida. Photo courtesy of Kim!]
Since many of Kim’s and my readers have food allergies or sensitivies, we want to share a note regarding the allergenic potential of coconut. Coconut must be labeled on food packaging as a tree nut, according to regulations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
On the other hand, neither the EU nor Canada considers coconut as a tree nut for food labeling purposes. Botanically, the latter is more accurate – coconuts come from coconut palm trees, are not closely related to most other tree nuts, and technically, they are the seed of a fruit, not a nut. While you can’t simply rely on botanical relationships to determine the potential cross-reactivity between two foods, those foods which are close biological relatives generally share related allergenic proteins (like cashews, mangos, and pistachios).
That being said, there is some evidence of cross-reactivity between coconuts and hazelnuts and between coconuts and walnuts, which is strange because those trees are not at all closely related. However, allergies to coconuts are believed to be far less common than allergies to many true tree nuts, such as walnuts, cashews and almonds, a point with which the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network agrees. A June 2007 study in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology indicated cross-reactivity between coconuts, walnuts, and hazelnuts in one patient. Your allergist can advise you on the suitability of coconut for your diet.
I don’t have allergies to tree nuts and am fine with coonut, too, but I know that many readers require substitutions for coconut; it will be different for everyone. However, for many of us with dietary restrictions, coconut is a nourishing addition to our diet, and it makes an excellent substitute for dairy butter in most recipes. [see References at bottom of post for sources]
THIS MONTH’S GIVEAWAY
This month, we’re giving away a jar of beautiful organic coconut oil to a lucky SOS participant. To learn how you can enter to win, click here.
TO ENTER THE CHALLENGE, link up your healthy vegan recipe with coconut oil. Please be sure to adhere to the SOS Kitchen Challenge General Guidelines, posted here.
And to get you in the mood for coconut oil-based recipes, here’s my first contribution to this month’s challenge: ACD-Friendly, High Protein, No-Cook Snackin’ Orbs!
This recipe was inspired by one posted on the forums at the Whole Approach website. As those of you who’ve been following my anti-candida journey might know, Whole Approach has been my primary guide for the diet I’ve followed since March, 2009 (that’s right–almost two years! I’ll be posting more about my diet and an ACD Update later in the week–stay tuned).
These snacks offer a great protein boost in the form of portable little spheres (I just can’t bring myself to call them “balls,” ever since that classic Christmas skit aired on Saturday Night Live). Halfway between a protein bar and a raw truffle, they’re sweet (but not too sweet), chewy and a little crunchy. I played around with various combinations of seeds, powders and protein sources (all rice protein-based) to find what worked best for my tastes. I’ve added my two favorite variations at the end.
I’ve found myself snacking on these in the afternoon or biting into them for breakfast. There’s only one caveat: when the HH tasted these, he remarked that they tasted “healthy.” Those of you who whip up hemp protein smoothies for breakfast likely know what that means. If you’re the kind of person who likes an extra-thick (and perhaps green) smoothie in the morning, you’ll really enjoy these.
[On the left: hemp seed-lucuma-coconut variation. On the right: sesame seed-carob-pumpkinseed.]
ACD-Friendly, High-Protein, No-Bake Snackin’ Orbs (ACD Stage 1 and beyond): Inspired by a recipe on Whole Approach
The beauty of these orbs is that they’re portable–they stay firm at room temperature and can be packed in plastic wrap or a container for later consumption, or grab a few on your way out the door in the morning and feel confident that you’ve started your day with a good portion of your protein requirements. Alternately, press the “dough” into a pan, refrigerate, and cut into bars.
2 Tbsp (30 ml) coconut flour
1/2 cup rice based protein powder (I used SunWarrior Vanilla or NutriBiotic plain; you could try flavored powders as well)
3 Tbsp (45 ml) carob powder (or use lucuma powder or a mix of carob and mesquite)
1/8-1/4 tsp (.25 ml to .5 ml) stevia powder or more, to your taste, depending on how sweet your rice protein is (I used NuNaturals)*
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) cinnamon, optional
1/2 cup (120 ml) finely ground flax seeds or flax seed meal
2 Tbsp sesame seeds (or use hemp seeds)
1/2 cup (120 ml) pumpkin seeds (or use sunflower seeds or unsweetened dried shredded coconut)
1/4 cup (60 ml) unsweetened carob chips, optional
1/2 cup (120 ml) nut or seed butter (natural almond, hazelnut, walnut, sunflower, pumpkinseed, etc.)
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract (or use 1/2 tsp/2.5 ml almond or orange extract)
3/4 cup (180 ml) water or unsweetened milk alternative (soy, almond or rice),or a bit more, as needed
In a medium bowl, sift together the coconut flour, protein powder, carob powder, stevia and cinnamon, if using. Add the flax, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and carob chips, if using, and stir to distribute the seeds and chips evenly.
In a small, heavy-bottomed pot melt together the nut butter and coconut oil over very low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and water until smooth. Pour the nut mixture over the dry ingredients and stir well to combine; it should come together and be slightly moist and smooth, like a cookie dough.
Using a small ice cream scoop or teaspoon, scoop the dough and form into balls. Place on a plate in the refrigerator until chilled and firm, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to eat. Alternately, press into a greased or parchment paper-lined 8 or 9 inch (20-22.5 cm) square pan; refrigerate until firm and then cut into bars. Makes 6-10 servings for breakfast (4-5 orbs per serving) or 24-30 snackin’ orbs.
Carob-Pumpkinseed Variation: Use sesame seeds, vanilla protein powder, carob powder, almond butter, pumpkin seeds and water options
Lucuma-Coconut Variation: Use hemp seeds, plain protein powder, lucuma powder, sunflower seed butter, coconut, and unsweetened almond milk options
*NOTE: If you are at a later stage of the ACD or can use other sweeteners, up to 2 Tbsp (30 ml) agave or yacon may be used in place of some of the stevia.
Overview: Tree nuts include macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, chestnuts, beechnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts (pignoli or pinon), gingko nuts and hickory nuts. Like peanut and shellfish allergies, tree nut allergies tend to be severe, and are strongly associated with anaphylaxis. Walnuts and cashews are the two tree nuts that cause the most allergic reactions. At least 90 percent of children diagnosed with tree nut allergies will have them for life.
Question: Is Coconut a Tree Nut? Answer: That’s a surprisingly complicated question. If you ask the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the answer is “yes:” a food containing coconuts is required to be labeled “contains tree nuts” under FALCPA.
Allergic reactions Allergic reactions are severe adverse reactions that occur when the body’s immune system overreacts to a particular allergen. These reactions may be caused by food, insect stings, latex, medications and other substances. In Canada, the nine priority food allergens are peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, milk, eggs, seafood (fish, crustaceans and shellfish), soy, wheat and sulphites (a food additive).
A couple of nights ago I went out to dinner to Live Organic Food Bar, a fabulous café that was the first all-raw restaurant in Toronto (it has since introduced some cooked foods to the menu–and wine). Since my office mate at the college is retiring, I took her out to celebrate (or mourn–sniff! boo hoo! Where will I acquire my gossip from now on?).
I’ve always loved the food at Live. My dinner that night: a “Green Kick” juice (pear, kale, ginger, dandelion, lemon); raw pecan “tempura” sushi appetizer; “The Manwich” sandwich (Reubenesque, in a rice wrap instead of Ezekiel bread), and an individual pot of Japanese green tea. Sounds delish, no?
The restaurant’s story is an inspiring one: almost a decade ago, Jennifer Italiano, a self-taught chef, opened the first location of Live in the hip and grungy student haven of Dupont Street near George Brown College. The space she could afford was tiny, no larger than a phone booth (for those of you too young to remember phone booths, that’s about 100 times smaller than Kanye West’s ego). I had the honor of attending a cooking demo put on by Jennifer when she had just started out, and was blown away by how innovative and tantalizing her recipes were (sort of like my baked goods will be if I get on The Ellen Show!). In fact, that demo was the first time I tasted what is my still favorite way to serve dandelion greens: Bittersweet Salad.
In the same spirit, I thought I’d stretch my own culinary creativity a bit and try out something new with beets, the star player in the SOS Kitchen Challenge (which I’m co-hosting with the uber-cool and culinarily prolific Kim from Affairs of Living). Since the event focuses on either sweet or savory dishes, I thought I’d post a second recipe using this month’s ingredient, beets. And since my first submission was for savory beet burgers, today’s is for a sweet and refreshing beet-based smoothie.
This smoothie was fabulous. The leafy greens and deep magenta of the final product both herald spring, something of which we’re in dire need today (what?? April 17 and it snowed this morning???). And the gentle nudge of lime here creates a really light yet refreshing flavor, perfect for a quick breakfast. Unlike my typical smoothies, this one isn’t extremely thick; more like a light sunshower than a downpour (which, considering it’s still not snow, doesn’t even sound all that bad at the moment).
It’s not too late to enter the challenge! If you have a beet-based recipe that you’d like us to include, you can send it along until April 20th. Check all the details here.
Brilliantly Beet Smoothie
If you’ve got ready-baked beets in the house, this is an amazingly quick and nutritious breakfast. I’m sure raw beet would be equally (perhaps more) healthful; I just haven’t tried it yet. Let me know if you do!
1 medium beet, baked until soft, peeled and cut in chunks
1 cup (240 ml) mixed fresh or frozen berries (I used blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries)
3 large or 4 medium kale leaves (in keeping with the color scheme, I used purple kale)
1/2 medium cucumber, peeled and cut in chunks
juice of 1/2 lime
1 scoop of your favorite plain or vanilla protein powder (I used Vanilla SunWarrior)
1 cup (240 ml) plain or vanilla rice milk
5-10 drops (or 1 packet dry) stevia
Place all ingredients in a high powered blender and blend until smooth. (Note: if you use fresh berries, you may wish to add 1-2 ice cubes for a cold smoothie). Drink immediately. Makes 1 large or 2 small servings.