Conscious Food Choices

For the love of delicious healthy food…

Home Cured Olives – Sonoma County Style…

Home Cured Olives

Well… let’s just say it’s been a long time, but I have been keeping busy.

October is when the olive harvest begins in Suryalila and it is one of my favorite times of year to be there. And so when this October rolled around and I was far away from Spain, I thought I’d better see what California has to offer…

As some of you know, I have been making a slow transition this year from New York City back to Northern California, which is where I grew up. I really never intended to move back, but my father is losing his eyesight to macular degeneration, so I have been bouncing back and forth all year between my dad and his lovely 3 acre property in Northern Sonoma County, and my boyfriend Hannes in our home in Harlem, NY.  To say this is a culture shock would not do it justice, but actually, I am getting used to it and am now enjoying the radical change of pace, in both directions.Hand Picking Olives Wendy and Horse

Needless to say, Sonoma County is an exceptionally beautiful place to live, and I am beginning to develop a real appreciation for the year-round farmer’s markets and the endless opportunities to grow, forage, brew, and preserve the bounties of the county.  My father’s property is flanked by wineries on both sides; the road we live on was once called Oat Valley Road, and the next town West of us is called Hopland, so clearly, brewing and fermenting are in the air here. When you drive through Hopland, you see hops growing along side the road, and driving along Highway 101 in the Fall, the air is thick with the smell of must from fermenting grapes… it’s intoxicating!
olives on the vine 750 pounds of olives!

And… what is lining all these the vineyards? Olive trees!

So about a month ago, I got myself invited to an olive picking party at a neighbor’s magnificent horse ranch, and our small crew of 14 spent most of a day picking 750 pounds of manzanilla olives for cold pressed olive oil. It was seriously fun, hard work. And guess how much olive oil that amount of olives will yield? …. only 13 gallons! I will never grumble about the price of good olive oil again.

Later that week I went back and hand-picked another 7 gallons of the green and medium ripe olives from the remaining trees. I looked for the greener olives for eating. I couldn’t wait to cure them!

The olive curing process that I know is a water-cured process which I learned in Suryalila a few years ago from our neighbor there, Jose. What the Andalusians do is to crack or score each olive by hand, then soak for 7 to 10 days in water to remove the bitterness, and finally brine them in salt water infused with garlic, peppers and the herbs which grow wild in the area. I thought I would do the same, using locally grown and harvested Sonoma County ingredients, which included wild fennel foraged from the side of the road, California bay laurel leaves, marjoram and wild cilantro from my dad’s yard, and bright peppers and fresh garlic from the Cloverdale Farmer’s Market. Bounty of the County indeed!

Home Cured Olives  – 7.5 Gallon Yield

  • 7 gallons fresh green and medium ripe  olives
  • 3 gallons water
  • 2# celtic grey sea salt
  • 1/4 c whole peppercorns, lightly cracked
  • 3 cups unpeeled garlic cloves
  • 2# fresh red and green peppers, sliced
  • 3 T whole coriander seeds
  • 10 -15 fresh marjoram sprigs
  • 10 – 20 fresh bay leaves
  • 16 stalks fresh fennel, in 4-5″ pieces
  • 36 oz white wine vinegar
  • 750 ml olive oil (to pour over tops of olives)

 

Sort the Olives:

Sorting Olives by Ripeness

Sort olives, seperating the very greenest ones to be cracked, the medium to be scored with a knive, and the very ripest ones to be kept whole and salt cured.

  1. Cracked Green: With a mallet, gently crack each green olive on one side, just so it splits open. Try not to smash it too much here – you are are just looking to crack it open.
  2. Medium Ripe: With a sharp paring knive, score each medium-ripe olive in 3 or 4 places, so that the brine will penetrate down to the pit. Again, try to do without squashing or bruising the olives too much.
  3. Dark Black:  The very dark, ripe olives I kept whole and covered in course salt and stored away in a cardboard box in a dark closet to “sun dry” them, ironically. This is a first time for me with this process so more later as I figure out what I am doing here…

Soak the Olives:

Using at least three 5 gallon buckets, cover the olives completely in cold filtered water and float a plate with a small weight on top to keep the top layer of olives submerged. Let soak in a cool dark place for a week to 10 days, draining and changing the water at least once a day. This helps to remove some of the bitterness of the olives, and the salt brining will complete the process. You will see that the cracked green olives, which have more surface area exposed, will de-bitter quickly, turning from bright green to a drab…well, “olive ” color. You should be able to almost eat one of these without grimmacing and 7 -10  days should do the trick.Homemade Olives on the Countertop

The less ripe end of the scored olives might take a few days longer – you will see them also change color. I pulled all of this batch after 7 days because of my own time restrictuions (I needed to get to NYC: Sometimes the slow food movement clashes with my jet-set lifestyle…) This will just mean a longer cure in the salt brine… it can take sometimse up to a couple of months for the bitterness to leave the olives this way.

If you soak the olives in water longer – 10 days to 2 weeks even –  you can reduce the brine curing time (and the entire curing time) to only a few weeks. These olives will tend to be less bitter, but sometimes a bit softer than olives cured using the longer brining method.

 

Make the Brine:

A day before your olives are ready to escape their water bath, heat one gallon of water, add salt, and stir to disolve. Add remaining two gallons of cold filtered water.  With your mallet, lighly crack the garlic cloves, and let sit out for at least 10 minutes to oxidize**, and then drop with peppers, herbs and spices into your bucket.  In Spain, Jose lightly muddled the peppers with the garlic and herbs with a large mortar and pestle before adding to the salt brine, but I decided not to do this on this round. Too messy!

Home Cured OlivesAdd 2/3 of the white vinegar and taste. I make half the olives at this dilution, and then add the remaining vinegar to the other half of the batch, making some of the olives a bit more vinegary. (Alternately, you can leave the vinegar out. Tradicionally the Andalucian olives are made only with salt).

Gently fill 15 half gallon mason jars with olives, nearly to the top. Pour brine evenly over olives, leaving 1/4 to 1/2 inch below the lip. Tap lightly on the counter to release bubbles, then top with olive oil to the rim.  Carefully screw the jar lids on, leaving as little air in as possible.

Store olives in cool dark place, or (ideally) refrigerate. They are ready when they have lost their bitterness, and this can take from 3 weeks to 3 months, depending on the variety and ripeness of your olives, the length of your soak time, etc. You can try the cracked green olives in 3 weeks, but the scored olive will likely take a month or two to finish. To taste, fish out an olive or two, and then top off the jar with a splash more olive oil, keeping the olive submerged under the oil and as air-free as possible.

Buen Provencho!

* Using Celtic Grey Salt: I know… it’s crazy to spend $4 a pound on salt right? Wrong. Suck it up and spend the money on high quality, high mineral salt whenever you can. Using good salt to naturally preserve and cure olives is a no-brainer and makes them even more special… I consider them medicinal!

** Releasing Allicin: When crushed, raw garlic produces a powerful antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral sulphuric (stinky) compound called allicin.  Within 5 minutes of being crushed and exposed to air, garlic explodes into a variety of sulfur-containing compounds which are supposed to be very good for the heart, lowering blood pressure and releasing more oxygen to the blood stream (always a good thing!).  Studies have also shown that raw garlic a powerful anticarcinogenic, internally halting the growth of cancerous tumours in the body.

***What’s in an Olive? 

Raw cured olives are chock full of healthy, monounsaturated fat and loaded with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients. Green olives are higher in oleic acid, which has been shown to decrease blood pressure, while black olives contain more iron and vitamin E. Both also contain serotonin, the hormone which triggers your body to feel satisfied… how good is that? Eat your olives!

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December 7, 2014 Posted by | Fresh, Labors of Love, Low Carb Recipes, Raw Food Recipes, Recipes, Sugar Free/Unrefined Recipes, Vegan Recipes, Wild & Foraged | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rich Spanish Lentils with Quinoa

Spanish Lentils with QuinoaThese lentils are so rich, hearty and satisfying – they can be served alone in a big bowl as a standalone Winter meal, or offered as a tasty first course to a larger meal, as it is often served in Spain.  The addition of quinoa was inspired by the commonly used Spanish technique of starting many vegetable dishes by frying chunks of stale bread, or breadcrumbs in lots of olive oil, garlic and pimentón – the sweet, slightly smokey, Spanish paprika. The Castillian Sopa de Ajo, (Garlic Soup), is traditionally made this way. So it got me wondering what would happen to start with a base of quinoa, rather than bread…

So this soup is a hybrid between Sopa de Ajo Castellana, and the Andalusian Sopa de Lentejas, with my Californian non-gluten twist…

Spanish Lentil Soup with Quinoa – Serves 6 – 8

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 t. high quality, high mineral salt
  • 1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1/2 cup dried quinoa, rinsed very well and soaked one hour or more
  • 2 t. sweet paprika
  • 2 t. Spanish pimentón
  • 6 cups water or vegetable stock
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 2 whole bay leaves
  • 2 T nutritional yeast
  • 1 t. ground cumin
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and soaked one hour or more
  • 1/4 green bell pepper, or 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 potato, peeled and cut into larger chunks
  • 1/4 c red wine, to taste
  • 1/2 t. umeboshi vinegar, or Braggs Amino Acids (optional)
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley leaves

Saute the onion with olive oil and a pinch of salt in the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot, until golden brown and starting to caramelize –  about 10 minutes.  Add garlic, carrots, celery, salt and pepper and saute gently for about 10 more minutes until completely cooked, stirring occasionally and deglazing sides and bottom of pot with water every once in a whole as needed to keep it from sticking. This long slow cooking process at the beginning sweetens the vegetables and is what gives richness and depth to the soup, so make sure to put the time in here.

Stirring constantly over medium flame, add quinoa, paprika and pimentón, toasting the quinoa for a few minutes in the hot oil. Add water/stock, bay leaves, cumin, soy sauce and nutritional yeast, and 1 t. salt,  lentils, green peppers, sweet potato and potato chunks. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for 30 -45 minutes, or until lentils are cooked but firm and potatoes can be cut with a fork.

Taste and add red wine and a splash of umeboshi vinegar or Braggs amino acids. (These give the “6th sense flavor” which the Japanese call umame. Soy sauce can also be used).  Thin with water if necessary to desired consistency. These lentils can be served thin and soupy or very thick, piled up in a shallow bowl, depending on your preference. Adjust salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix in fresh parsley just before serving.

These lentils are great with a side salad and thick slices of toasted garlic bread, or served alongside Tortilla de Patatas (a Vapor!).

January 15, 2013 Posted by | Main Courses, Recipes, Soups, Stews, Sugar Free/Unrefined Recipes, Vegan Recipes | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Creamy Beet Borscht with Horseradish Swirl

creamy beet borscht with horseradish creamBorscht is one of those things, like art, that everyone has an opinion about, but really, what is it?  My friend, the artist John Fadeff, who I think is also qualified to speak on this by nature of his fine cooking ability and Russian last name, told me that borscht in his family was anything that started with: 1 onion, 1/2 head of cabbage, and 3 beets, and then they would put all sorts of stuff in it afterwards, greens, beans, even meat. Really, anything goes with borscht –  look it up in Wikipedia – there are a bazillian varieties out there and everybody’s got one (they even make it in China, with tomatoes instead of beets), but anyway, per Mr. Fadeff: 1 onion, 1/2 cabbage and 3 beets is the basic ratio I always start with.

This borscht is the hot, thick and creamy kind – which I was recently told is the Hungarian variety, as opposed to the chunky Russian kind, or the chilled ones with dill and egg, or all the other variations there seem to be out there. The horseradish addition I am crediting to my friend Katherine, from Kosmic Kitchen, who used to do a horseradish sour cream to top a delicious red root soup (also a borscht, I guess: beet soup – with the addition of carrots, parsnips, ginger and all sorts of sweet rooty deliciousness.) I also adopted the ginger from her because I really like the warm spicy complexity it adds. This soup is all about balance of opposites: sweet, sour, spicy, smooth, hot, cold and creamy. It’s a perfect with a loaf of hot whole grain bread and salad.

Creamy Beet Borscht for 8

  • 2 large onions, in 1/2″ slice
  • 1 smallish head of cabbage, cut into 1 – 3″ pieces
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 3 huge beets or up to 6 medium ones, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 t. white pepper
  • 1 – 2 t. Himalayan or other high mineral salt
  • 2 whole bay leaves
  • 6 -8 cups water
  • 2 t. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 t. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 – 2 t. maple syrup
  • 1/2″ fresh ginger, chopped coarsely

In a large, heavy bottomed soup pot, saute onions and olive oil with a pinch of salt until sweet and slightly caramelized. About 5 minutes. Add cabbage, salt, pepper and bay leaves and continue to cook over medium flame, with the top half on, until the cabbage softens and also starts to caramelize, about 10 more minutes. Stir occasionally, and add a little water as necessary to deglaze the pan and keep it all cooking away. Add beets to the pot, and then add water (eyeball it) to about an inch or two over the vegetables. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes or until the beets are thoroughly cooked though.

Remove bay leaves and blend with ginger in Vitamix or blender until completely smooth. Return to pot adjust for salt and pepper, then add vinegars and maple syrup, cautiously. The soup should be both sweet and slightly sour, and how much you add will depend on how naturally sweet your veggies are, how patiently you caramelized them, and how acidic your type of vinegar is. In any case – if it is not already “mmm… wow” ad this point, keep adjusting.

(This soup freezes really well – I do a large batch and freeze half of the batch for later).

Serve with a scoop or swirl of Tangy Horseradish Yogurt Sauce or Vegan Horseradish “Sour Cream” in each bowl.

December 31, 2012 Posted by | Recipes, Sauces, Soups, Sugar Free/Unrefined Recipes, Vegan Recipes | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Silky Ginger Carrot Soup

P1040513It’s starting to get blustery and cold in New York City, and all I want to do is hole up in my cozy apartment and make soup! This soup is very versatile  – I made it simply ginger for an Asian-y accompaniment to my vegetarian “Chinese Chicken” Salad and Sesame Scallion Buns meal last fall, but it can just as easily be Mexican-ed up by replacing the ginger with cumin and adding a pinch of oregano.* (And for an awesome raw version, check out this one:  Warm Winter Carrot Soup.)

The secret of this soup is to get it really really smooth – it will be ok done in a blender, but it is divine when made in the Vitamix…

Silky Ginger Carrot Soup for 6

  • 2# carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 medium onions, sliced evenly
  • 2 T olive or coconut oil
  • 1 t. Himalayan or high mineral salt
  • 1/t t. white pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked for 2 hours and drained**
  • 1 – 2 cups water
  • 2 – 3 T. fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 – 2 t. maple syrup (optional)
  • 1/2 t. umeboshi vinegar or squeeze of lemon (optional)

In the bottom of a heavy-bottomed soup pot, saute onions with salt and pepper in oil over medium heat until starting to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Add carrots and bay leaf and sweat them another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, with a lid loosely on the pot.  Add enough water to cover carrots (about 4 cups, but you can eyeball it), bring to a boil, and cook until the carrots are tender enough to cut with a fork, but still bright orange. About 10-15 minutes, depending on how thinly you have sliced them. Remove bay leaves, add cashews, and blend in Vitamix very well, being careful to start slowly with the top securely on. You can bring the soup up to the highest speed and then leave it there for at least a minute. I walk away…

Add grated ginger, ume vinegar and 1 – 2 cups water, slowly, thinning to desired consistency. Add maple syrup, salt and pepper to taste. Finish with a splash of umeboshi vinegar, or a squeeze of lemon. Rewarm lightly if not serving immediately, but do not boil.

Serve garnished with a few sprigs of fresh cilantro, or thinly sliced scallion tops.

*This recipe can also go East Indian if you do ginger, cumin, coriander and turmeric with the onions, or Moroccan if you do all of the Indian spices but add cinnamon and a pinch of saffron in the with carrots… play with it!
**You can replace the cashews and 2 cups water with almond milk, or hemp, soy or oat milk.

December 6, 2012 Posted by | Low Carb Recipes, Recipes, Soups, Sugar Free/Unrefined Recipes, Vegan Recipes | , , | 1 Comment

Fresh Cilantro-Coconut Chutney

Fresh cilantro is a blood purifier and excellent chelator, known for removing heavy metals from your body such as mercury, lead and aluminum. Like many herbs, it is also high in minerals, particularly potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. It is also very high in antioxidants (cancer fighting) and and one of the highest natural sources for vitamin K (good for bones).  This recipe is super easy to make and so delicious that I sometimes eat it out of the bowl with a spoon after I run out of things to spread it on… try it with the Baked Samosas for sure.

  • 1 whole bunch fresh cilantro, cleaned and chopped (stems ok)
  • 1 cucumber, unpeeled, cut into large chunks
  • 1 whole lime, juiced (or whole, just peel lightly and add in chunks)
  • 1/2 cup grated unsweetened coconut
  • 4 fresh jalapeno peppers, cut into chunks
  • 1 t salt

Blend all ingredients in a Vitamix or high speed blender, adding in cilantro and coconut last. Adjust the spice and salt to taste.

Make it your own – there are infinite variations!

  • Mix a 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves in with cilantro
  • Replace cucumber with fresh green bell pepper
  • Add hot Indian chili peppers instead of jalapenos for more heat, or leave out chilies completely
  • Add a bit of ginger, garlic or both

November 14, 2011 Posted by | Fresh, Low Carb Recipes, Raw Food Recipes, Recipes, Sauces, Sugar Free/Unrefined Recipes, Vegan Recipes | , | Leave a comment

Pesto-Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes with Roasted Portabellos

This is the recipe that made me like quinoa, maybe even love it: fluffy quinoa with asparagus drenched in basil pesto, good enough right there… but then served with fresh ripe tomatoes and warm roasted portobello mushrooms – it’s a knockout combination. I owe thanks to Chef Tracy Morrisette, whom I worked with at the Goddess Garden in Costa Rica earlier this year, who convinced me with this combination that quinoa could be fantastic. If you are (like I was) in the camp that quinoa is no better than glorified bird seed, this recipe will convert you. (Quinoa is actually a seed, not a grain – it is gluten-free, very high in magnesium (cardiovascular health) and also has more calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, copper, manganese, and zinc than most grains. It’s also naturally high in protein and fiber.)

This can be served nearly raw as a summer salad or lightly baked as a gorgeous entree…

Pesto-Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes with Roasted Portobello (serves 4)

  • 4 medium-sized vine ripe tomatoes, (or two large heirloom)
  • 1 t extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa (for 8 minute recipe, see below*)
  • 6 T  creamy blue-green basil pesto (any version)
  • 1 cup fresh asparagus, in 1″ pieces
  • 1 t olive oil
  • 2 T water
  • juice and zest of 1/2 lemon (opt)
  • 1 T nutritional yeast
  • freshly ground salt and pepper
  • 4 medium portobello mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T well aged balsamic vinegar
  • 1 t maple syrup, palm sugar or agave (if balsamic is not well aged)
  • Salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 450°.

Prep the tomatoes: Cut the tops off of medium tomatoes, or cut the big heirlooms in half, horizontally.With your fingers, gently scoop out all seeds and inner membranes of each tomato, leaving a hollow cup. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and rub in gently with your hands. Let sit while you prepare the quinoa.

Prep portobello: toss mushrooms with oil and vinegar salt and pepper until well coated all around. Taste and adjust – should be delicious already. Spread out in single layer on heavy baking pan.

Make Pesto-Quinoa Pilaf: Quickly saute asparagus with a small amount of olive oil, water and salt for 1 -2 minutes until slightly tender, toss with squeeze of lemon and zest. Toss in quinoa, nutritional yeast and warm through gently. Add pesto – taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Stuff each tomato or tomato half generously with quinoa pilaf. (If tomatoes are small they can be split into 4 quarters to accommodate more filling, but not necessary.) Organize in baking dish or sheetpan and place both portobello and tomatoes in very hot oven to roast for 10 – 15 minutes or just until tomatoes are hot through and top of pilaf has a touch of brown. Portobellos should be ready in about the same time but keep and eye on them.

I served with a lightly dressed arugula salad (arugula and a squeeze of lemon in the unwashed mushroom marinade bowl… ).

~~~~~~~~Other Versions: ~~~~~~~~~~~

Stuffed Tomato Salad – just don’t roast:  serve room temp pilaf in the fresh tomato shells over arugula, with un-roasted marinated portobellos on the side.

Un-stuffed Salad: Forget the whole stuffing thing, and just serve a big  scoop of warm or room temp pilaf over a plate or bowl of gorgeous sliced summer tomatoes.

Pesto Quinoa with Garlic Scapes: replace asparagus with fresh garlic scapes in above recipe.

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*Tracy’s 8-minute Fluffy Quinoa:

  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • pinch sea salt

Wash quinoa several times to get rid of soapy taste. Cover in fresh water and let soak 1 hour or over night to activate enzymes (skip this if you are in a rush). Rinse one more time drain. Boil quinoa gently in small pot for 8 minutes only in salted water. (Yes, it’s really only 8 minutes and a 1:1 ratio- even a bit less if you are making a very large pot of 8 cups or more). Fluff with fork, cover tightly and let rest for 5-10 minutes more to totally fluff up and expand.

July 4, 2011 Posted by | Low Carb Recipes, Main Courses, Recipes, Salads, Sugar Free/Unrefined Recipes, Vegan Recipes | , , , | 7 Comments

Creamy Blue-Green Pesto (Vegan, too)

Pesto, like chocolate, is one of those wonderfully strong-flavored things that you can slip all sorts of healthy stuff into without anyone guessing. My most favorite surreptitious ingredients in basil pesto are hemp seeds and blue green algae. Hemp seeds are full of complete and easily digestible protein, have the highest essential fatty acids of any plant food on the planet – a perfect 3:1 ratio of Omega-6 Linoleic Acid and Omega-3 Linolenic Acid, which is good for for your heart and immune system – and best of all, they taste a bit like pine nuts. (They can completely replace the nuts in your pesto recipe without anyone noticing, but I usually do a mix of hemp and raw cashews because I really like the sweet creaminess the cashews add.) The blue-green algae is full of chlorophyll and phytonutrients, plus adds some trace minerals and vitamins, and can also go undetected, even by the pickiest of (12 year old) eaters. My boyfriend’s son Kai generally does not eat “foods of color” but curiously loves pesto, which is what motivated me to try to slip as much other healthy green stuff in as I could. The last time I made it we did it together, but I slipped in the blue-green algae at the end when he wasn’t looking. Can’t reveal everything to everyone all the time…

Creamy Blue-Green Pesto (Vegan)

  • 1 bunch fresh basil, washed and picked (about 3 cups)
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup hemp seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea or Himalayan salt
  • 1/2 t umeboshi vineger (optional)
  • 1/2 t fresh black pepper
  • 4 capsules Crystal Manna Blue Green Algae

Save out a handful or basil leaves, and then blend all remaining ingredients well in blender or Vitamix until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust for salt – this should be well salted and fairly intensely flavored, as a little goes a long way. Add remaining basil leaves and blend briefly, maintain a little texture. (You can add in a few more nuts here too, if you want a little crunch). Use at once or keep in glass jar with a puddle of olive oil on the top to keep it from going brown. Will keep 1 – 2 weeks in the fridge.

Play with your pesto!

Pesto can be made with really anything so please get creative with what is in the fridge.

  • Add a little parsley to the blender to up the green intensity
  • Add a bit of nutritional yeast to make it richer and slightly cheesy
  • Use any other type of nut here, pine nuts are traditional, but I have had great pesto made with pistachios, walnuts and even sesame seeds. Or make it with all hemp.

Also, I just want to say that the amounts of everything are extremely flexible – I have make a 10 minute pasta with a  “chunky pesto” sauce using about 10 basil leaves from a withering basil plant who’s day had come… in this case it went into a mortar and pestle with 1/2 clove of garlic and a few tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper and got chopped toasted pine nuts mixed in later. Just proving that 10 fresh leaves are infinitely superior to any pre-fab pesto sauce you could ever buy from anywhere!

Pesto is not just for pasta- its great on steamed potatoes and vegetables, and is fantastic mixed with quinoa. If, like me, you never thought “fantastic” and “quinoa” should appear in the same sentence, check out Pesto-Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes with Roasted Portabellos

July 1, 2011 Posted by | Fresh, Low Carb Recipes, Raw Food Recipes, Recipes, Sauces, Sugar Free/Unrefined Recipes, Vegan Recipes | , , | 1 Comment

Ginger-Goji Super Granola and Friends…

I am not crazy about the flavor of goji berries, but am a strong believer in their superpowers, so this is a way to spice them up by dry blending them with a bit of crystallized ginger. (Yes, the sugary one…but a little goes a long way).

Ginger-Goji Super Granola (Raw-ish)

  • 1/2 recipe of Vanilla Almond Granola Base 
  • 3 c flaked or shredded dried coconut (combo is nice)
  • 2 c walnuts and/or pecans (soaked and dried)
  • 1 c organic goji berries,  dry blended until roughly powdered
  • 2 T finely chopped crystallized ginger pieces
  • 1 T freshly grated ginger
  • 1 c dried mulberries, (or ¼ c dates, raisins or other dried fruit) coarsely chopped or lightly dry blended
  • 2 T liquid coconut oil
  • 1/4 t coarsely ground sea salt
  • 2 T maple syrup
  • 1 t cinnamon (optional)
  • Vanilla maple glaze made with: 1 T vanilla plus 1/4 c maple syrup

Dry blend crystallized ginger, fresh ginger and goji berries in Vitamix until most of the goji berries have powdered and are reclumping into gingery bits. The odd whole berry is fine here too.

Combine coconut, chopped nuts, gingered goji berries and other fruit in very large bowl. Add liquid coconut oil and toss to coat.

Add 2 T. maple syrup, salt and cinnamon or other spices and flavorings, toss lightly to coat.

Finally, add Vanilla Hemp Granola Base over nut mixture. Toss lightly, drizzling with remaining maple-vanilla mixture so everything is lightly coated. Make sure not to overmix at this point – there should be distinctive lumps of the oat-y base, alongside the coconut-nut mixture, all lightly glazed with the maple vanilla mix… (Mmmmm)

Spread onto 3 or 4 Perflexx sheets. Dehydrate 8 -12 hours or overnight, turning once to crisp up the undersides.

 

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Flavor Variations (are endless… these are just ideas)

Maple Pecan Granola

  • Use all pecans instead of walnuts
  • Use gingered gogi berries, or not…
  • Use only the finely shredded coconut, not flakes
  • Increase cinnamon to 2 T
  • Add 1/2 t freshly grated nutmeg

Blueberry Almond Granola

  • Use 2 cups chopped raw almonds (soaked, dried and truly raw)
  • Use only flaked coconut
  • Leave ginger out but dry blend the gogi berries to a fine powder to dissapear them
  • Use 1 c sundried blueberries as the dried fruit,  and do not chop or blend.
  • Replace cinnamon with 1/2 t fresh lemon juice and zest
  • Add 1/2 t almond extract to and 1 t lemon juice to vanilla maple glaze

Rainforest Crunch:

Brazil nuts are a great source of selenium, a necessary trace mineral not easily found in many foods. This is a good way to eat a little bit each day.

  • Use 1 c walnuts, plus 1/2 c brazil nuts, soaked overnight, thinly sliced and dried
  • Add 1/2 cup finely chopped raw cashews, (unsoaked is fine).
  • Use chopped dried figs, pineapple and/or mango for the fruit.

Pumpkin Spice:
Pumpkin seeds are another great nutritional powerhouse. Extremely high in minerals, especially magnesium, plus a wide range of B Vitamins, and Zinc, they also contain L-Tryptophan which among other things, makes you feel good. Along with walnuts, they are also listed as one of the better sources for omega 3 fatty acids.

  • Add 1/2 t nutmeg, 1/4 t dried ginger and a pinch of cloves, or 3/4 t pumpkin spice mix to gogi berries and dry blend.
  • Add 1 cup soaked and dried pumpkin seeds to the blender just at the end, to coat them in flavor
  • Add 2 t cinnamon and a dash more nutmeg or spice blend to the vanilla maple glaze at the end

June 18, 2011 Posted by | Breakfast, Food Consciousness, Raw Food Recipes, Recipes, Sugar Free/Unrefined Recipes, Vegan Recipes | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Vanilla Almond Granola Base…High in Omega 3’s and Superfoods

A while back I got obsessed with making granola – not (obviously) because its such a sexy subject matter, but because I have found its a tricky way to ease my Austrian boyfriend away from the ubiquitous morning toast habit….and its a really excellent mask for a whole load of super-healthy ingredients that are sometimes not so easy to fit into a regular diet. As always, I am looking for sneaky ways to get more Omega 3 oils into our diet…

This granola recipe is split into two parts – the base, which takes a bit of time to make, and the final flavoring step, which allows you to whip up many different flavor combos quickly. So plan ahead – it’s well worth the initial effort. This recipe will make a large amount of base which you can split up and store in your freezer, pulling out to make several fresh batches (and flavors) of fresh granola as supplies run low. Which they will.. quickly!

(Please play with this recipe – it would not be a stretch to say I have never made it the same way twice. The last time I made it I increased the buckwheat, the maca and the flavorings  and then doubled the flax to make it even more healthy, and it was still delicious!)

Vanilla Almond Granola Base (makes enough for 2 large batches of granola)

  • 3 c raw sprouted oat flour or rolled oats (see Notes on Oats, below)
  • 2 c raw sprouted buckwheat,
  • 2 c ground almonds (soaked and dried)
  • 1 c freshly ground golden flax seed
  • 1 cup hulled hemp seeds, coarsely ground
  • 2 T Peruvian maca powder (optional)
  • 1 1/2 t. Himalayan or high quality grey or sea salt
  • 3/4 c  coconut sugar (or 5 packets of stevia)
  • 3/4 c raw coconut oil
  • 1/4 c agave syrup/maple syrup
  • 2 T vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t. almond extract (optional)
  • 1/2 c water

Combine oats, buckwheat, ground nuts, flax, hemp, maca, coconut sugar/stevia and salt in a large mixing bowl. Mix well, adding coconut oil and using  your hands to break up clumps. The mixture will be loose and crumbly, holding together lightly like a graham cracker pie crust.

Add flavorings to the water-agave/maple syrup mix and sprinkle lightly over this crumb mixture, tossing lightly with you hands so that pea sized balls begin to form. Use your fingertips to help the loose crumbs forming the little balls – these become the lovely oaty bites in the final recipe.

Spread out on 4 Perflex sheets and dehydrate 8 – 12 hours  at a low temp (108°). Turn the mixture over once to expose any damp spots so everything is uniformly dry as possible.

You can split into two batches at this point, freezing half to keep it fresh. Continue on to Ginger Goji Super Granola and Friends for the next step and all the flavor variations…

Note: because of the high Omega 3 oil content in the ground flax and hemp, this granola should be subjected to as little heat as possible, and stored in the refrigerator or freezer to keep fresh.

NOTES ON OATS

There seems to be a lot of confusion around oats out there. The first thing I want to mention is that “raw oats” are very rarely raw – even those really raw looking oat groats you find in the bulk food section of your local health food store. (And especially not the rolled oats from the Quaker Oats box, which have been steamed, then rolled).

I spent many many days trying to get those healthy raw looking oat groats to sprout before I started researching oat production and apparently, oats are most often “stabilized” by heat or chemicals within 4 days of harvest in order to keep them from spoiling. So… then I ordered some “sprouting oats” online, which also, suspiciously, did not sprout, ever… and then, recently I found a big bag of organic, freshly harvested spouting oats in a community market in California, which, after lugging back with me on the plane to NYC, I did manage to sprout! Happily I took my freshly sprouted oats, dehydrated them, blended them into oat flour, make a bug batch of vanilla almond granola base (all four trays full) only to realize that they had turned completely toxic somewhere in the process. I mean really really awful (burn the back of your throat toxic). I was so traumatized by this I let the whole batch sit in my dehydrator for 4 days before I could even throw it out. It turns out that 1) rather than soaking overnight, as I did, you should only soak for 1 -2 hours before sprouting. And  2) it might have been a “bad batch” of raw oats. I googled and found other people out there with similar experiences.  The end result? I made my most recent batch of granola base with high quality old fashioned rolled oats and added in the sprouted buckwheat to “raw it up” a bit.

June 18, 2011 Posted by | Breakfast, Raw Food Recipes, Recipes, Sugar Free/Unrefined Recipes, Vegan Recipes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes

My friends all know that I hate cupcakes. Vehemently. I have hated them for a long time – at least since the cupcake craze started in NYC by Sex and the City – and I kept waiting for them to go away, (…um, you know, like: grow up) but in the meantime they seem to have invaded other cities, cookbooks, some of my favorite blogs…and now even my dreams. I had a dream last night in which I had to make a cake for 200 people in an hour…and in it, I was seriously considering cupcakes. Very stressful.

Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes with Edible Gold Leaf

Happily, and despite my own prejudices, I have discovered that there are some real life occasions when one hour is all you’ve got – you want to make something fun for your boyfriend and his 12 year old son’s birthday, for instance – and I have to admit that nothing could be better and more appropriate for the occasion than…chocolate cupcakes! So, here they are – vegan, no refined sugar, dipped in super gooey ganache, topped with edible gold leaf… making them, well, a little bit sexy. Who knew?

Chocolate Cupcakes with Ganache Frosting

  • 1 cup unbleached white, or “white whole wheat” flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 3/4 c agave syrup, or coconut crystals
  • 1/2 c almond milk
  • 1/3 cup oil (organic grapeseed)
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1 t apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare 12 muffin tins with paper cupcake liners.

Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in mixing bowl. Add agave syrup, almond milk, oil vanilla and vinegar and whisk lightly for 30 seconds to one minute until well combined. Pour into paper cupcake liners and bake for 20 – 25 minutes until tops spring back lightly when touched.

Chocolate Ganache Frosting

  • 1/2 cup raw agave syrup
  • 1/2 c cocoa powder
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, liquid but cool

Mix together all ingredients except coconut oil in Vitamix.  Add coconut oil in slow steady stream and blend until thick and glossy. Dip cooled cupcake tops into warm ganache. Top with edible gold leaf, nuts, or topping of choice. Enjoy!

March 30, 2011 Posted by | Desserts, Food Consciousness, Recipes, Sugar Free/Unrefined Recipes, Vegan Recipes | 2 Comments