October 27, 2013

Pomegranate Pear Oats + Tulsi Hazelnut Latte

It got really cold really fast. One day I was eating acai bowls and icy cold green smoothies, and the next day I was sipping on miso soup and making macro bowls. I don't know where this strong desire for warm--and only warm--comfort food and drink came from. I am not one to stop eating cold foods just because it is cold outside. I am a green drink junkie year-round. Salads remain a staple for meals through the blustery holiday season. And yet, here I find myself gravitating towards steaming hot foods before true winter has even hit.

Luckily, I'm a total go-with-the-flow kinda gal when it comes to my diet. I love--love!--raw foods and how they make me feel, but I don't shove them in my mouth just for the sake of eating them. If I feel the desire to include cooked foods--or in this case eat mostly cooked foods some days--, then that's what I do. The most important thing I can do for my health (not to mention living authentically and staying true to my ethics) is to eat a vegan diet of vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. It's the foundation of the diet, the everyday choices, that define one's level of health.There's no need for me to worry about raw-to-cooked ratios or the occasional treat with gluten or fried oils if those are the choices I am comfortable with making at the time. I know how my body will react to certain foods, and I generally choose the ones that make me feel the most energetic, balance my mood, and support my long-term health. And those times that I make less than stellar food choices? I don't sweat it.

Basically, that's my long way of saying that when you eat from nature's bounty, you don't need to micromanage your diet*(see note at the bottom of this post). That's it. Simple!

If you've been feeling the chill in your bones like I have, why not make this warming and colorful oatmeal bowl? While you're at it, jazz up your morning tea, too! It's really easy and is significantly cheaper than a specialty drink at a coffee shop.

Before this cold spell, I hadn't eaten oats in so long. I really can't even remember the last time I had them! This oatmeal bowl is not only a good source of fiber, protein, iron, and vitamin C, but also the blackstrap molasses provides extra calcium, iron, and potassium. If you want another nutritional booster for this bowl, sprinkle some pumpkin seeds on top. You'll get even more iron and also a generous amount of zinc to protect against seasonal colds!

Pomegranate Pear Oats
serves 2

1 cup rolled oats
2 cups water
1/2 cup hazelnut milk, or milk of choice
2 tsp blackstrap molasses
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1 small bosc pear, diced
pomegranate arils, to garnish
pumpkin seeds, ideally raw and soaked/sprouted or lightly toasted (optional garnish)

- Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add oats and simmer until water is absorbed. It should take about 5 minutes or so.
- Add the milk in and cook on a low simmer until the oats thicken to your desired consistency. This should only take a few more minutes.
-Stir in blackstrap molasses, ground ginger, and the diced pear.
-Scoop into 2 bowls and top with pomegranate arils. Add pumpkin seeds if desired.

Tulsi Hazelnut Latte
serves 2

2 tulsi tea bags, or any other neutral-tasting tea of your choice
12 oz boiling water
4 oz hazelnut milk, or milk of choice
3-6 drops of english toffee stevia, to taste, or sweetener of choice to taste
1 1/2-2 Tbsp Dandy Blend

- Place a tea bag and 2 tsp-1 Tbsp of Dandy Blend into each teacup.
- Pour 6 oz of boiling water into each teacup.
- Add about 2 oz of hazelnut milk and the desired sweetener. Stir.

*Sometimes, being extra meticulous with diet can pay off, like if you're dealing with a chronic illness or medical condition. But even with health battles, such intense dietary precision can backfire. I was often encouraged to be more restrictive than was necessary or that I was comfortable with. The stress of these situations proved to be more harmful than the actual foods I was instructed to forgo, and when I began to eat more intuitively I experienced much more progress towards healing (part which was due to diet changes and part which was no doubt due to the lowering of my psychological stress surrounding meal times.)

October 25, 2013

Finger Lakes in 48 Part 1: Ithaca Farmer's Market and Apple Tasting

Last month, my dad and I took a trip to the Finger Lakes region of New York. It was originally going to be my family vacation (J and Tucker included!), but our summer was kind of hectic and that didn't work out. Our main reason for the trip was to visit Farm Sanctuary and our adopted goat, Jake, but we were also excited to explore other areas of the Finger Lakes like the town of Ithaca. We packed a lot into 48 hours, but it never felt rushed. In fact, it turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I returned home with such peace in my mind and inspiration in my heart.

When I saw that Ithaca had a wildly popular farmer's market with about 150 vendors, I knew that was how we'd start our Saturday. We had no idea what a cool experience it would be though! It is a huge open-air market right on the banks of the Cayuga Lake. Outside of the large pavilions and scattered along the lake, there is plenty of seating with scenic views of billowy trees, sun-kissed water, and the pier. Under the pavilion, it is bustling with locals, college students, and travellers alike. The vendors were all very friendly, and I sampled and bought a lot of things before we moved on to our next destination.

 Some of my awesome finds:

These sprouts were so good. I've never had buckwheat lettuce, and I couldn't believe that they actually tasted like lemons without the acidic bite! I couldn't pass up buying a 1/4 lb of assorted sprouts. We also got some (unpictured) greens since I was craving a nice salad. We got a bunch of tat soi, a bunch of hardy purple greens that are in the mustard family, and a bunch of this really mild and delicate green that is perfect for salads. I made a huge bowl of these greens topped with sprouts, salt, and pepper, and I drizzled a bit of omega oil (olive, avocado, flax) on top. Delicious.

When I found this garlic, I had to explain my excitement to the vendor, who was looking at me like I was a little bit crazy. I am part Carpatho-Rusyn, so this garlic comes from one of the regions that my ancestors are from. It's a cultural identity that is not associated with any specific country (it spans many countries actually) and is not very well known. So, to see this garlic in the basket was a really cool thing for me. I bought a bulb, of course.

After perusing the market for awhile, we were ready for some lunch. There was a stall called Macro-Mama that served macrobiotic food. It was one of the more popular food vendors there, and the menu looked great. But then we happened upon a stall with Cambodian food. Neither one of us had ever had Cambodian food before, so that fact made the decision for us! Pictured below: My dad got curry with pineapple, peas, sweet potato, and tofu. I got a rice noodle salad with mango, basil, carrot, tomato, and plum sauce. We got two appetizers to share: fried banana with sesame seeds that came with sweet and sour sauce and veggie numpao which was a rice bun with taro, monk bean, onion, and carrot.

I also sampled a few flavors of (cheeseless!) garlic scape pesto, admired the teeny-tiny eggplants, sniffed the homemade vegan bar soaps, admired the beautiful flowers, and then, in all the excitement, forgot to pick up a pint of ground cherries on my way out.

This one apple stand had so many different kinds of apples that I'd never had before, and I was eager to try some of the different varieties. I chose 8 of them for purchase, and my dad and I took them home with us for an apple tasting. Since many of them looked alike, I took a picture of me holding the apple to its corresponding sign to help me identify them.

The following weekend (thank goodness apples keep for a long time), my dad came over for our apple tasting. I've never done any kind of tasting formally, but with all the fun I have doing them at home I bet I'd really enjoy them. Here's how this one went:

        Top row: Snapdragon, Esopus Spitzenburg, Karmijn de Sonnaville, Pink Pearl

Bottom row: Margil, Crimson Crisp, Liberty, Sansa

There were many more varieties of apples, but I'm happy with the selection we brought home. I didn't realize it at the time, but one of the varieties I get from my CSA is the Liberty apple, so that's the only one I've tried before.


*The favorite of the evening was the Karmijn de Sonnaville. It was really tart but also really sweet and was delighful for snacking.

*Other favorites were the Snapdragon, a new Cornell apple of which the Honeycrisp is a parent, the Sansa, a Japanese apple which crosses the Akane and Gala apples, and the Margil, which had the most unique flavor. It had a neutral flavor that was followed by a delicate nuttiness. I kinda wish I'd brought back a whole bag of the Margil apples.

*Best named apple goes to the Sansa. Ok, ok. This Game of Thrones fan may be a little biased.

*The prettiest apple was the pink pearl. It was so tiny and had a rosy hue inside. If I had more of these apples, I'd make some beautiful food art.

*This isn't so much a highlight, but our least favorite was the Esopus Spitzenburg. It was described as the "Thomas Jefferson apple, sweet + fruity with tingling tartness." The flavor was nice, but we couldn't get past the texture. It was really dry and made my tongue feel dry, too.

All in all, our trip to the Ithaca Farmer's Market was a smashing success. And, it was only the beginning of the rest of our magical 48 hours.

To be continued...

October 02, 2013

Celebrate National Kale Day with a Cajun Kale Salad

Happy National Kale Day to all of my fellow kale-obsessed vegans out there! I thought I'd drop in today to give you a recipe for this awesome kale salad I made last week. It is so quick to put together and only needs a few ingredients.

This beautiful cherry tomato medley was my inspiration for this recipe. The dark green kale made a nice complementary backdrop to the lively colors of the tomatoes, and I was able to squeeze a few more tomatoes into my diet before they disappeared for the season.

I added raw corn to this salad, too. Our CSA got a late crop of corn this year, so my fridge was overflowing with ears of corn just waiting to be used for something delicious. I just love raw corn. Many people are surprised to learn that you can eat it raw; they think that raw corn is really hard and needs to be cooked to make it edible. Not so! It is pleasantly crunchy and sweet in its raw form. The reason it is so sweet is that cooking converts the sugars in the corn to starch. Adding raw corn to your meals is a great way to add sweetness without adding sugar. If raw corn is not available to you, frozen corn (thawed) should work for this recipe. Just drain off any excess water before you add it to the salad.

As far as methods to cut the corn off the cob, there are a quite a few demos out there. It seems the popular method is to stand it upright in a bowl and shave it down with a sharp knife. I find this method to be unnecessarily messy. Even with a really big bowl, corn kernels fly every which way. I like to lay the cob down on the cutting board and run the knife down the sides, rotating as I continue to cut. It's so much less messy than the other way. Take a look:

Lacinato kale, also called tuscan kale or dinosaur (dino) kale, is a fairly delicate variety of this beloved green. I love to slice it in very thin ribbons to use as a salad base. It's so tender that I don't even massage it.  I do use some lime in this salad for flavor which will also help the leaves become even more tender over time if that's the texture you want, though I must admit that I ate this whole bowl right away. It was just too good!

Cajun Kale Salad
vegan, raw, gluten-free

1 bunch of lacinato kale
1 pint of cherry tomatoes
2 ears of corn, raw
1/3-1/2 avocado, depending on the size and/or your preference
juice of 2 limes
1/4 tsp cajun seasoning*

- Wash and dry kale thoroughly. remove the ribs and chop into thin ribbons. Place in a large bowl.
- Add the juice of one lime and toss to coat the kale leaves.
- Quarter cherry tomatoes and cut off corn kernels. Add both to the bowl.
- Squeeze the other lime and add in cajun seasoning.
- Toss for even distribution.
- Cut avocado and arrange on the top of the salad.
- Serve.

*If you don't have/can't find cajun seasoning, other seasoning mixes like chili powder would be great. I also went really light on the seasoning because I wanted to primarily taste the fresh vegetables. If you want more spice, start by adding another 1/4 tsp of seasoning to see if that helps.