Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lovely Veggie Chili and Onion Bread

Good Wednesday lunch break, my friends! How is your week? Hopefully going by quickly and happily!

It has turned cold again - yuck! It was actually SNOWING this morning when I left for work - and I see it falling now! So, that's always a good time to figure out warmer comfort foods - but still healthy! While I sometimes crave the cheesy pizza or fat-and-cream-laden soups, I have been having fun trying to find healthier ways to cope!

A few days ago, I posed the tropical salad - and as wonderful as that is, I know it's not warming! (But sure makes me smile and think back to Saipan.)

Over the weekend, I tried my hand at making a "raw" Onion Bread and Chili. And I was very happy with the results!

So first, the onion bread, which I found on at posted by Kandace here. (It's the first recipe posted on the site, over 4 years ago! I figure I'll just start there, and work my way forward to the present!) ;-)

Based on a recipe by Matt Amsden in RAWVolution.

3 yellow onions, large
1 cup flax seeds (golden, brown or a combo), ground
1 cup raw sunflower seeds, ground in a food processor
½ cup Braggs Liquid Aminos or Nama Shoyu
¼ cup cold pressed olive oil

1.Peel and half the onions. Slice in a food processor (with slicing disc) or by hand
2.Place onions in large bowl and mix with rest of ingredients until thoroughly combined.
3.Spread mix over a Teflex sheet and repeat until all of mixture is used (I usually end up using 2 sheets).
4.Dehydrate at 100°F for 24 hours. Flip and return to dehydrator for 12 hours.
5.Cut into 9 equal pieces (2 cuts horizontally, 2 cuts vertically). Usually makes 18 pieces

I'm not sure if I did the recipe correctly, because I only used half the onion amount - I just couldn't get more onion to mix in! I also decreased the Braggs Aminos to 1/4 cup because that stuff is salty! Then I added a little more water to make up the fluid difference. I think I over-processed the seeds, because it was more a paste than a grainy texture. But the flavor was still good!

So that big bowl was then spread out on my dehydrator sheet, on parchment paper. Again, not sure if I did something wrong, because I only got 1 sheet out of it instead of 2. Maybe she makes hers thinner? Or perhaps that extra onion would carry it further.
And after quite a long dry time, it comes out a deep caramel brown!

The benefits of this bread: (I hope you're sitting! This is a doozie!)

Onion is not often the first food that comes to mind when I picture healthy foods. I often think of it simply as a condiment to other foods - and it does go great with many items! But it also carries many health benefits of its own. (And I loooooove the taste!) Onions can help reduce the risk of various cancers, such as colorectal, laryngeal, and ovarian cancer if eaten regularly (study showed 1-7 times weekly reduced risk). Onions also help increase bone density - something good for all of us, especially for menopausal-aged women who often have some density loss! They also have a good dose of chromium, which helps maintain healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Flaxseeds are one of my favorite forms for getting my Omegas (I also love chia seeds, hemp seeds, and walnuts! And of course, pretty much all leafy greens have some omega fats in them - just in small amounts.) But these lovely little seeds are also a rich source of fiber and manganese. They are also anti-inflammatory, help keep bones healthy, protect against cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension! And one small study found that it helped reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes.

Sunflower seeds are a rich source of magnesium, which can help calm nerves and muscles, and sometimes even help with migraines! They also contain selenium - one of thsoe beautifying minerals! But it is also is a helpful component of the powerful enzyme glutathione peroxidase, which your liver uses to detoxify a range of potentially harmful molecules.

Braggs Liquid Aminos (what I used) is similar to soy sauce. It's got that same salty, savory flavor, but it contains 16 different amino acids (that make up proteins.) Plus it's organic, non-GMO. (Which I am a BIG fan of avoiding!! I try not to buy anything with non-organic soy or corn. But that topic is best left for a different post some day.)

Olive oil has been all over the news as being healthy. And it is! But it is liquid fat, so keep that in mind if you're a calorie counter! Usually 14g of fat per Tablespoon - but at least it's mostly monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) which are some of the healthier types! In limited amounts, olive oil will provide some wonderful things! When used INSTEAD OF (not IN ADDITION TO) animal fats and butters or other bad fats, olive oil has been found to help protect against degenerative diseases like atherosclerosis, diabetes, asthma, colon cancer, and arthritis, as well as protecting against heart disease. And more? It's got some good antioxidants phenolic compounds to help with other protective effects! When picking out an oilive oi, try to get Cold Pressed Virgin, as this will help maintain the flavor and health value of the oils better than the more refined forms.

* * * * * * * * * *

So back to the meal... Once the bread is done, I put in on the side with some chili from my Live Food Cuisine book. The base is a delectable blend of sun dried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, spices - and avocado to make it nice and creamy! Then it's got some good chunky veggie bits in it for good hardy noms! Then I let it sit in the dehydrator for a little to warm it up some (but not so hot as to cook out all my lovely nutrients and enzymes!)

The "sour cream" is a blend of macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, and some lemon and salt. I wouldn't say it tasted much like sour cream (and I should have added extra water to get the consistency different) but it was good! And it helped complement and tame the extra cayenne I'd accidentally put in the chili!

So with the spicy chili and the zesty onion bread crackers, a nice side of cool cucumber was the perfect companion to this dinner!

My new dishes!! I had to buy this set because it was so colorful and just made me happy!

I am sad that my chili is now gone, since I can look outside and see snow still falling. Plus, even Dave liked this one! (Ok, so, the first time he tried it, he was actually spreading it on a slice of cheese pizza... but I suppose that's better than nothing!) Now he wants to learn how to make this on his own, so he can have it more often!

I hope you all have a warm and hearty day! Stay warm, stay dry, stay smiley ^.^

Warm Wishes!
That is one hearty bread I think I'll be making in bigger batches in the future! They also made good crackers when I cut them smaller and let them dehydrate a little longer :) (Plus, onions, flax, and sunflower seeds are all pretty cheap! It's just the Braggs that gets a little pricier - but perhaps I can find some substitute of just using water and my Celtic sea salt.)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tropical Salad on a Wintery Day

Hello all! :) Today I wanted something that reminded me of WARM WEATHER! I was so excited by the warmer days we had, and then this!! Cold and rainy, and even little flakes of SNOW!! Gaaa!!!

So I went to the store, and treated myself to some wonderful, healthy, enzyme and nutrient rich tropical fruits!

And I made a beautiful, colorful salad! Pineapple, papaya, banana, and half an avocado... with a splash of lime juice, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and a handful of macadamia nuts! Very much like my tropical smoothie (just blend!) but I wanted to savor the unique flavors of each fruit, and I am a sucker for texture - and I crave the little crunch of the nuts in this dish!

This pretty plate packs a punch! With over 100% of the RDA for Manganese and Vitamin C, it also carries a healthy dose of Potassium, Magnesium, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Thiamin, Folate, and even the lovely B-6! And over 10 grams of protein and 20 grams of fiber! AND! It's rich in phytosterols, which are good to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. That's one heck of a meal there, my friend!

Now I should go turn on some Hawaiian music, put on the flip-flops, and relax ;-)

Have a great week everyone!


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Vegan Cooking Class!

Part 2 of the sister's birthday!!

After a good run, a hot shower, and some good family time, the women of the house were off again!  This time, we were going to Whole Foods to do a cooking class of Asian-style vegan foods!  I know it was my sister's birthday, but WOW! Could this day have been any more wonderful for me?!  *lol*  The funds that Whole Foods raised from this class went to help victims of the Pacific chaos going on.  So that was another huge perk!

The menu laid out for us was an Asian ginger salad, Miso soup, and a pear dessert!  We got in pairs and off we went!  The recipes were created by a raw vegan chef, so you know they're healthy!  Good produce, fresh fruit, and no oils!  Hooray!

Carolyn and I started with dessert (because who wouldn't want to?!  Ok, that's also the station we were kind of randomly assigned to...)

Here's my beautiful model of a sister displaying our pretty dish!

That's a baked pear with a delicious almond milk spiced sauce (and decorated with a star anise just because it's pretty! Don't try to eat one!  They're HARD!)
Then we went to the salad station and made this delicious Asian salad with a ginger sesame dressing!  I actually didn't care for the dressing that much, but the salad with its orange wedges was a sweet treat!
Lots of good greens in this one!  Plus some almonds, cucumber, and carrots!
Here's my most wonderful mom walking back with her bowl of Miso soup - the third station!
Udon noodles, bok choy, and wakame in a miso broth - quite good, but not "green" enough for my liking ;-)  I'd do tons of bok choy with just a smattering of noodles if I had my way!  But still super yum!
Here's our giant pot of soup - we made enough for 8 people so we could take home the left overs!  Tee hee!

So that the other event of Saturday!  Quite enjoyable!  Plus the next day, I had lots of leftover salad to enjoy for lunch :)  Yay!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Gettin' Muddy with Swamp Crackers!

Happy Birthday to my little sister!!!

To celebrate, I went for a run! *lol*

Sipping some hot drink to warm up before the run!
It was about 35 degrees at first!

Ok, not quite. Since she's a late sleeper, I figured I'd be able to participate in a 9am trail race. So, bright and early, I get up, brew some tea, snack on a little fruit, and drive out with my mom and my man to cheer for me for 4 miles!

Displaying my number proudly!

Disappearing into the crowd...

At 9am, the pack is off!! And within a mile, I'm muddy, wet, and grinning! I haven't run much on trails before, and boy is it different from my ol' treadmill! About 3/4ths of the way through, thoughts are running through my head, desperate for the end. But by the end, the endorphins kicked in, and I was grinning ear to ear again!
51:51 baby!

My time: 51:51. Not the best, but it was still a victory for me! Woohoo!

I get to the end, and they have sports drinks and bagels.... eh.... processed stuff. Thank goodness I had my natural foods with me! Oh, it was SO refreshing crunching into a sweet, juicy apple! And having some warm chai rooibus tea to sip in the 35 degree sun!

My fresh, crunchy apple by the trail map!

And, ok, I made another fun looking recipe from my recipe book :) They called them green wafers; I called them swamp crackers - especially since I added raisins to some and hazelnuts to others, so it looked like little bugs stuck in a green bed!

But these wafers were a great post-run snack - made of almonds, spirulina, and salt. Good stuff! I was getting some good protein, healthy fats, calcium, and of course sodium to help with what I sweated out.

A delightful morning, and a huge runner's high afterwards! And home in time to enjoy a big family brunch! This was one of my goals for the month - to run this race in less than an hour. Goal: COMPLETED! Before 10am, too!

How did you start your weekend? ;-)

Much love!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Green "Swamp" Wafers

Top o' the Morning, to Ye!  I hope you have a wonderfully happy gorgeous green day!

I had fun this week making another new recipe from Dr. Gabriel Cousens' Rainbow Green Living Cuisine book!

Since it's St. Patrick's Day, I figured something green would be fun!

With a dough made from almonds, spirulina, oil, and salt, these savory little treats are health-packed and unique!  I used about half the spirulina called for because I'm not a fan of that flavor, so I was being careful :)

These are odd little flaky crisps, and they seem like a versatile base!  Plain and simple, or maybe add stuff!

Here's a picture of the different things I tired:

From top left:
Raisins, organic cocoa, drops of agave
Cinnamon, maca powder, onion and garlic powder
Hazelnuts, chia seeds, and plain

I figure this lets me play around with sweet and savory!  So, I spread it out, and then put it in the dehydrator!  I don't know if my dehydrator just doesn't work that well, but it took a lot longer to dehydrate than the recipe called for.  But in the end, they had this great wafer texture, crumbly yet crisp!
All dried out!

And now I have these wonderfully healthy treats to sample for my run this weekend!

Almonds, I have discussed before - good healthy fats, calcium, proteins, antioxidants.

Salt is great for post-run replenishing sodium.

And spirulina, a blue-green algea (yeah, sounds gross, I know) but, as University of Maryland Medical Center states, "Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae that is rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids (a type of antioxidant that can help protect cells from damage). It contains nutrients, including B complex vitamins, beta-carotene, vitamin E, manganese, zinc, copper, iron, selenium, and gamma linolenic acid (an essential fatty acid)." This complete potein - containing all amino acids - help improve the immune system, fight cancer, protect against allergic reactions, help with growth of your body's good bacteria, and protect yout liver!  Of course, this is a newer item to the world of research, so they say more studies are needed to know for sure what wonderful benefits this gorgeous green goodie will provide!

And to go with this savory treat, I did have some processed green drink... but no beer here!  I know it's not as good as fresh-made green smoothie, but I was short on time.  So Dave and I just enjoyed this lovely sweet drink:

Green Goodness drink for Bolthouse Farms

Happy Green Day, my friends!  I hope you enjoyed whatever you did (though, of course, I hope you took some care for your liver!)


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mixing it up with Trail Mixin'

Good morning, my friends!  I hope you had a wonderful weekend!

One of the things Dave and I did was make a trip to Bob Ronker's Running Spot, because I have taken up the hobby of trail running.  I decided that, while I enjoy pavement running, I wanted to get more in to nature.  So, I signed up for a 4 mile trail run in two weeks!  And if I am to be running in the muck, that means it is time to get shoes just for that!

So we went to get some trail shoes for me!  Aaaand, well, while I had originally been planning on some basic trail shoes, I got giggly happy looking at some of the crazy "Vibram Five Fingers" shoes that are so popular with barefoot runners!  

Look at those crazy things!!  But, as I have read, a lot of people prefer running with this "minimalist" feel - you have the ability to flex individuals toes, you can feel the ground better, and you're forced into a gentler stride rather than pounding on your heels because the thick soles of other shoes keep you from feeling the pain of  bad form.  They ended up being the same price as the other trail shoes I had been looking at, so I just went with it!  They made me so happy because they were fun, and SO comfortable!  And since I usually hate wearing shoes to begin with, I thought my tootsies just may prefer these.  I have to plan a day to get out to a trail and try them out!

And with trail running comes trail mix snacks!  I usually like to make my own so that I know what's in them, and can make it however I want.  An easy mix can just include nuts, dried fruit, and dark chocolate bits.  Then you can season if you like with salt, cinnamon, cayenne, etc.  Whatever flavor floats your boat!

Here's my mix this week:
Simple Trail Mix:
Pumpkin Seeds
Dried fruit mix (raisins, papaya, pineapple, cranberries)
Dark Chocolate (88% cocoa)
Dash of sea salt

Toss in a jar or other container, shake, rattle, and run!

And this is such a healthy snack, too!  Nuts and seeds are good sources of proteins and healthy fats, great for exercise and healthy joints.  Pecans are rich in antioxidants (great help healing after a good workout), almonds are a good source of calcium to help with strong bones good for pounding the pavement (or trail now!), and pumpkin seeds have a collection of wonderful minerals.  Fruit and chocolate add a little carb kick for quick energy, and salt helps replenish what you may have lost sweating.  What a great treat after a long run!  

...Now I just need to go TAKE that run so I can enjoy the snack! ;-)

Happy week!  See you all back here later!


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Christmas Salad!

Kalloo-kallay! It's Saturday!!!

And I got to go spend the day with loving family-in-laws :)

I was very excited to go over and share some nutritional tidbits with my sister-in-law, as she is the predominant cooker for the home. She's been trying to learn nutrition, and navigate the chaotic, conflicting waves that health information runs.

We wanted to try a green smoothie, but time got away from us. We started with a new salad, and just never made it to the smoothie! But that's okay, because the salad was a new experience for me, as well! And so good!

A Borders Bookstore near us recently began its Going Out Of Business sale (sadness!), and so I snagged this lovely book at a discount:
It is filled to overflowing with recipes packed with vegetables, nuts, seeds, healthy oils, spices, herbs, and some fruits. All natural goodness! I had picked it up at the library, and when I began looking through the recipes, there were just too many that sounded sooo good! So, I knew I had to buy it. Hooray!!

And, with no real plan to sort through the many recipes, I just figured - start at the beginning and work my way through! (With some modifications for available ingredients and some personal preferences, of course.)

The first recipe to try was Bok Choy Paneer, which had a sauce that was flavored with Garam Masala, a blend of spices commonly used in Indian dishes. I found a lovely blend at Whole Foods, and am in love! While it seems the exact ingredient list varies, it looks like they all tend to be a blend of savory and spicy items. Some of the common spices (according to Wikipedia) are black and white peppers, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, star anise, coriander, and other exotic flavors I hadn't heard of, like malabar leaves and pappali. And I think the blend I bought must have had a little cayenne or chili powder or something, because there was just a slight heat kick to it!
I wasn't sure about sharing the recipe, but since it can also be found online here, I'll post what they have since it's public access.
Bok Choy Paneer
3 C Bok Choy, Shredded
1/2 C Red Bell Pepper
2 T fresh basil, finely chopped
1/2 C pine nuts
1 C walnuts, soaked (1-2 hrs)
1 1/2 T lemon juice
1 T Ginger juice (I just used a chunk of ginger)
1 T Garam Masala
1/2 T Celtic sea salt
1/2 T garlic, minced
1/4 T fresh ground pepper
Combine bok choy, bell pepper, and basil. Set aside. In food processor or blender, blend the rest until smooth (add water if needed, to desired consistency) Combine with bok choy mix, and marinate 1-2 hours. Serves 4-6.
(Or two to three when we just keep picking at it!!)

Bok Choy is part of the cabbage family, so shares the wonderful health benefits, including a high concentration of beta-carotene and vitamin A. It also has amazing amounts of bone-strengthening, cancer-fighting Vitamin K! Bok is also an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant rich fiber food.

The dish has an interesting flavor, as I have always associated spices like cinnamon and clove with sweet dishes like pumpkin pie and cookies! But there is no sweetener in the sauce, so it was a savory cinnamon! Very unique, and my sister-in-law made the comment that she felt like she was tasting Christmas!

And with those pretty colors, it even looks like a good holiday dish! I shall have to save this one to share with family around the holidays (and enjoy on occasion before then, too!)

Even Dave, who had just indulged in several pieces of pizza, grabbed my salad plate out of my hand and kept eating it, commenting that it was such a unique flavor.

So, good reviews all around tonight! And I'll have to see what else I can do with the sauce. The recipe calls for marinating the salad for an hour with the sauce, but I also made extra and kept some separate to use it like a dressing whenever I had another salad. I also think it could make a good spread on a sandwich or lettuce wrap. I wonder if it could be dehydrated into a cracker of some sort... hmmm.... I'll have to experiment and let you know!

Have a wonderful day, and don't let the relaxation of the weekend let you falter too badly from healthy lifestyles!! Go for a walk, have some lemon water, have a salad, but mostly - have a huge smile and enjoy! Take care!