Saturday, September 13, 2014

Turkish Delight: A Warmly Spiced Green Smoothie for Fall & Winter

The ancient wisdom of Ayurveda generally cautions against consuming cold, raw food. This restriction applies especially during fall and winter months for all people and year-round for anyone suffering from weak digestion, a condition known Ayurvedically as deficient Agni, or low digestive fire.

It makes sense that we don't want to steal heat from our body to warm up whatever we put into our stomach. But raw food doesn't have to be cold! In fact, delicate raw foods like fruits, sprouts and leafy greens can be heated all the way up to 118 degrees without becoming cooked (i.e. retaining their cellular and enzymatic integrity.) Whole nuts, soaked grains and other dense raw foods may remain raw and alive at even higher temps heading into the 150-155 degree range.

It follows that we can enjoy the benefits of fresh, living foods and respectfully feed the flames of our digestive fire simply by shifting our raw culinary focus away from things like cold salads, chilled soups or frozen fruit drinks and more towards gently warmed raw recipes. 

Even the infamous green smoothie, oft maligned in Ayurvedic circles for its "indigestible" complexity of contents and chilly rawness, can be prepared and consumed* in a way that honors Agni.

Turkish Delight: A Warmly Spiced Green Smoothie

1/4 cup hemp seeds
1 Tbs chia seeds
1 cup warm water
2 medjool dates, pitted and chopped
1/2 banana
1 cup raw spinach
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 tsp turmeric

Put the kettle on and warm some fresh water on the stove while you put the hemp seeds, chia seeds and dates into your blender. Pour hot water on top and let the dates and seeds soak for about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and blend until creamy. Pour into a mug and sprinkle with cinnamon before drinking. 

*Note: How to Drink a Smoothie
Because digestion begins in the mouth, it is crucial to remember that a smoothie is really more food than drink! For best digestion and assimilation, a smoothie must be sipped and savored, thoroughly ensalivated and introduced into your stomach slowly so that it can be recognized, welcomed and processed efficiently. Never gulp it down like a glass of water! I always tell my clients: Chew your smoothie! Although liquified, it contains a significant quantity and assortment of solid ingredients and needs to be eaten like a food. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Sweet Brown Rice & Toasted Sunflower Seed Salad

White balsamic vinegar and fresh mint are the star ingredients in this simple brown rice and sunflower seed salad. To make a complete meal, I served mine with hummus, diced avocado and two kinds of salsa on a bed of chopped romaine lettuce and homegrown mung bean sprouts.

Sweet Brown Rice & Toasted Sunflower Seed Salad

For the Oil-free Vinaigrette:
2 Tbs white balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs coconut aminos or tamari
1 medium clove garlic, minced or grated
1 tsp honey or agave
1/4 tsp cayenne 

Combine dressing ingredients, mix well with a fork and set aside while preparing the brown rice salad. 

For the Brown Rice Salad:
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup toasted sunflower seeds
3/4 cup diced tomatoes
3/4 cup diced cucumbers
8 black olives, pitted and chopped 
10 fresh peppermint leaves, minced

Start toasting sunflower seeds in a dry cast iron pan over medium to low heat, stirring as needed to prevent burning. While seeds are toasting, prep remaining salad ingredients. When seeds begin to brown nicely, remove pan from heat and allow to cool. Store cooled seeds in an airtight container until final step.  

Add brown rice to a large mixing bowl. Pour dressing over rice, stir well and allow it all to soak together for a few minutes.

Add tomatoes, cucumbers and olives. Stir gently to combine.

Stir in mint leaves, cover and chill. When ready to eat, mix in about two thirds of the toasted sunflower seeds. (This is done last so that the seeds will remain crunchy and crisp!) To serve, top salad with remaining seeds and garnish with additional mint leaves. 

This salad can be made ahead and keeps nicely for two or three days, even after the sunflower seeds are mixed in and become chewy rather than crisp. Enjoy leftovers as part of a composed salad, as shown below. Bon appetit! ��

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Walnut Basil Paté

Walnut Basil Paté (a savory, plant-based, pesto-like spread)

It's the last weekend in August. My boyfriend is going away. And at his house, a slightly wilty bunch of sweet basil that won't wait 'til Tuesday.

Naturally, I took it for my own.

Not a lot of basil—maybe a half a cup of leaves, loosely speaking. Surely enough for a little pesto of sorts, and what better time for pesto than now, Labor Day Weekend, when summer bows to harvest with September rolling in...

Sigh. Even though Fall has the best weather, I'm always a little sorry to see Summer go. Then again, the fresh produce is so abundant this time of year, I can't help but love it!

Anyway, here’s what happened. I got back home and tossed my little bunch of basil leaves into the Cuisinart with a clove of garlic (peeled and chopped) and about two big handfuls (a scant cup) of premium California walnut halves. I quickly pulse-processed these three ingredients—garlic, nuts and basil—into a green meal. Then, I added some seasonings—a quarter teaspoon of Himalayan pink salt, two teaspoons of nutritional yeast—and started processing again, this time while slowly fine-streaming, through the feeder tube, just enough extra virgin olive oil into the whirling mix to bind it together. (I haven’t quite eliminated solid fats and liquid oils altogether from my diet but I’m working on it, so I always use the minimum.) The moment the pesto bound together, I stopped the machine because I never like to over-process anything.*

What I ended up with is not so much a pesto as a Walnut Basil Paté that is so chewy and buttery and rich and DELICIOUS that I just want to eat the whole thing with a spoon RIGHT NOW.

But I won’t. I’ll save some for later. (But not TOO too later, because fresh is best.)

*Juicing, blending and food processing are marvelous inventions but they come with a price. Grinding up any whole food exposes all that was protected and volatile beneath the skin to damaging elements like oxygen and light. That’s why apples and avocadoes turn brown when you cut them: oxidation. So once you press, grind or cut into any whole food, best to eat it quick! I’d say this here pesto-like spread will be good for about three days…if it makes it that long. Enjoy it on whole grain toast, flax crackers, salad, soba or raw zucchini noodles. Bon appetit!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Chunkalicious Split Pea Soup

Chunkalicious Split Pea Soup - 100% Plant-Based
I've made a lot of split pea soup in my time but this one came out extra chunky and delicious, thanks to that sad yellow head of wilted celery in my refrigerator. I pretty much had to do something with it this weekend, or else. A handful of fresh bolted oregano, rescued from my leggy herb garden, also made a winning contribution. Not to mention those last three, slightly hairy carrots at the bottom of the bin.

Sometimes it's hard to keep up with things...and you start to feel overwhelmed... but then inspiration strikes! Proving once again that necessity is the mother of fine cooking.

Chunkalicious Split Pea Soup

1/2 tsp coconut oil (you could also use olive oil, but coconut is more heat stable)
1/2 medium red onion, sliced thick
2-4 small cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
1 head celery, washed and chopped in 1-inch pieces
3 carrots, scrubbed and chopped in chunky rounds
1&1/2 cups dry split peas, rinsed
5 cups water
2 tsp Seitenbacher's Vegetable Broth Powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 Tbs minced fresh oregano, or 2 tsp dried
sea salt to taste (optional)

Melt coconut oil in a soup pot on medium heat. Add onion and saute for about 3 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking. Add garlic, celery and carrots, reduce heat and saute veggies for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Add split peas, water, Seitenbacher's, cayenne and oregano. Bring to just below boiling on high heat, cover, reduce heat and simmer on low for one and a half to two hours, until peas are very soft. (Check soup every 45 minutes or so and add more water if needed - you want this to come out thick but still brothy.) When peas are cooked, taste and add additional salt if desired. Bon appetit!