Thursday, October 15, 2015

Stupid Easy Butternut Squash Soup

I love soup.  Some people don't.  Especially my children.  Which is why I made mine for lunch.  So, I can have it all to myself. After taking a couple cooking classes in Europe, one thing that was usually done while boiling vegetables was to add a little salt and sugar to the pot. The salt in this recipe is already in the Bouillon so I didn't ad any more.  This recipe calls for pre-cubed squash from the market but if you've got the time, just cube it yourself.  It's much much more budget friendly. The cashews ad creaminess.  However, only if you have a high powered blender! If not, try adding coconut cream (from a can) or, a cut of margerine after it's been placed in the bowl.  If you aren't Vegan some sort of cream. (Again, after it's been plated)

A 2 lb package of pre-cubed butternut squash
1/2 tsp rosemary
1 Tbsp.  Veggie Bouillon powder + 4 cups of water (or 4 cups of veggie broth)
1 Tbsp.  Onion Powder
1/4 to 1/2 tsp.  pepper
1/2 Tbsp. organic sugar
1/2 cup unsalted raw cashews

Dry saute cubes of squash until some pieces are browned. Add other ingredients (except for the cashews) and simmer covered  for 20 minutes.  Pour soup and cashews into a blender and blend until smooth. (be careful!  It will be super hot. Do this in batches if need be) If for some reason, your liquid isn't covering the squash when it's simmering, add more liquid (water or, broth)

Theoretically, one could make TONS of variations with this.  Unfortunately, I was at a loss of time and fresh ingredients...

Try this.  Let me know how it turned out or let me know if you created a different variation with this base recipe and leave a comment about it! If there were more time, I may have tried cubing 1 or 2 apples in place of sugar and possibly using fresh onion instead of powder.  This is vegan.  If there is a concern about adding sugar, try dates or maple syrup as a sub!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

It's Been a While & An Alternative Title Idea?

This should maybe be titled "My Unabashed Adoration of Costco" but, as I was writing I didn't quite know where this was going to go so, grab some tea, coffee or a snack and delve in readers. 

So, it's been a while?  I was listening to a podcast last night. (No Meat Athlete).  These guys were discussing their morning routines or, the important things they do everyday.  One of them was writing.  Sitting down and hand writing something for 30 minutes everyday.  I couldn't help but think about the journals I used to keep as a young girl and then of course, the blogs I used to write.  Then, several weeks ago on facebook a girlfriend of mine asked if I was going to star writing again.

Most recently, I've moved back to the United States.  I am now living on the Pugent Sound in the great state of Washington. We are so happy to be "home".  Honestly, we loved traveling throughout Europe and we feel blessed to have that experience but never once did we feel as though we were comfortable.  For the followers of all of our blogs, it was obvious to see we stopped blogging for a while in Germany while we blogged A TON in Japan.  One of the reasons was we were not very happy in Germany and, there are many reasons why that is that I just won't go into detail publicly.  Suffice is to say, Germany just wasn't for us. 

There are things however, like everywhere we've lived, that we will miss.  I hope to go over those things and also cover some things that we a totally grateful to have back.  This may take form in a sister blog.

Because our family has been camping out, blogging hasn't really been on the top of our list.  We are waiting for our household goods.  I have been sticking with the Vegan idea though.  And, while it's been easier here in the US of A to keep vegan, it's pretty darn tricky when I'm out to eat.  I still haven't become comfortable enough to proudly declare that I don't eat meat.  The hardest part is handling the immediate judgment from people.  The tricky part is staying away from excess salt sugar and oil as well when I don't have a kitchen.  I have a kitchen but, it's a mishmash of borrowed supplies.  Which, any cook will tell you just feel "off", or "icky" or "wrong".  We've been able to do simple meals like stir fry, bean burritos, baked potato bar, and veggie burgers.

One of the first stops we made was Costco.  They have changed so much just in the 4 years I've been out of country.  A fantastic selection of vegan, vegetarian, and generally healthier options.  Last night was a perfect example of a Costco vegan meal.  Brown rice (Costco), Frozen stir fry veggies (Costco), and this new curry they have in the refrigerated section.  Maya Kaimal Vindaloo & Coconut Curry.  Both packages were Vegan, Non-GMO, and gluten free.  For a package of 2 sauces it was a little over $14.  Pretty steep in my book but still if one divides it out for a family of 4 (plus, seconds) we are looking no more than about $2 a person.  Last night, we used the Vindaloo sauce.  YUM!  Amazing stuff I thought.  The label said spicy but I didn't think it was overkill.  The flavor reminded me of  S & B Golden Curry but not as heavy.  The kids weren't fans but they don't love curry like Mike and I. The package suggested 4 cups of veggies and 2 pounds of chicken.  I added about 5 cups of veggies and a can of chickpea beans. Although there were many healthy aspects of this the sodium was over 500.  Tonight more than likely we are doing veggie burgers.  We've been enjoying the boxed variety lately again from....drumroll.....Costco! These are the Don Lee Farms Veggie Patties.  Unlike many of the varieties on the market this is a true Vegan option. Also, organic, GMO free, and lastly (I'm not sure if this is to my detriment admitting this) I can actually pronounce all of the ingredients! These veggie patties were somewhat a treat.  I will more than likely keep them on hand for those busy school nights or, when Mike can't seem to find anything to eat, he can rummage through the freezer and not starve.

Although, I must mention the family and I absolutely adore the Happy Herbivores recipe for black bean burgers.  I love that it doesn't require many ingredients or utensils to make, it's fast, and it's inexpensive.  The family loves it because....they taste good. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Creamy Nicoise Inspired Dressing

This is creamy without the cream...or, oil.  Brace yourself.  It's not traditional Nicoise but I hope that it is close enough for your enjoyment. Serve this over or, beside traditional Nicoise collection of ingredients: hardboiled egg, tuna, steamed potatoes, green beans, tomato, and lettuce or, make your own salad of whatever veggies you can dream up!

Large Bunch of basil (About 2 cups packed 4 cups unpacked)
2 Tbsp. Grainy Mustard (I use Maille brand)
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
1/2 cup cashews
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
4 Dates
1/4 cup water

Blend all ingredients in the blender until creamy dressing is formed.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ranch Alternative

Being a redblooded American, I love ranch dressing but hate the calories and saturated fat that come with it.  This recipes satisfies my ranch craving but is much healthier. It's dairy free.  There are some fantastic health benefits to skipping on dairy.  Noticeably less sinus problems, stomach and digestive issues, and less fat & calories.  Other benefits include being able to eat dairy free ranch with hot wings!  If trying to live a kosher lifestyle, this is definitely a benefit!  No need to stress with this dressing/dip at the next summer BBQ.  Because there's no egg or dairy, it can stand out in room temperature longer without posing a health hazard. One more thing.....a 12 oz. carton of tofu is much cheaper than buttermilk, cream, sour cream, creme fresh, or mayonnaise.

I'm slowly moving into a Vegan lifestyle.  While I don't know if I'll ever become fully vegan, I think we can all agree that eating more plants is beneficial to our health, the world, and animals. 

This recipe includes frozen prechopped herbs from Aldi.  I use the 8 Krauter blend and it's fabulous.  I'm not sure if stateside grocers have wised up and started selling frozen pre-chopped herbs but this is a "Get with it America!" moment for me. Many grocers in Germany sell small frozen containers (about 75-100 grams) of herbs for less than 1 Euro. 

The herb blend that I use includes. Parsley, dill, watercress, chervil, chives, sorrel, borage, burnet.  I've provided links to definitions of herbs that may seem unfamiliar.  While I realize in the states, these herbs may not be easily accessible, I thought I'd provide a little education!  Also, for those who have a green thumb try growing these in your herb garden! For alternatives try using fresh chopped Parsley, Dill, Chives, and Basil.  1-2 Tbsp. each.  If fresh isn't available, try a 1 tsp. each dried.  Or, 2-3 Tbsp. of dried Italian herb blend.

So, here's the rest of the recipe.

1 12oz. box of silken firm tofu
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper (regular pepper works too)
1 1/2 Tbsp. chopped garlic
1/4 cup Aldi 8 Krauter Blend (Click on the link to see a picture and purchase at Aldi or (if you're here in Germany) or, use one of the alternatives listed above)

Place all ingredients except for the herbs in a blender and blend until smooth.  Pour mixture into a bowl and wisk in the herbs.  Pour into a jar or Tupperware and stick in the fridge to marinade for several hours.

This recipe will make about 2 cups of dressing. Serve it to your family and see if they can tell the difference! 

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Making Milk & Flour

I'm sure by now if readers have ventured into the health food scene, they've heard ad nauseam about THE VITAMIX!

I have to say, I was sick and tired of hearing about how fantastic this thing was.  I mean really?! It's a blender for crying out loud!  A $500 blender! But then I drank the kool-aid too.  We had blown through 3 blenders in one year.  I wanted one.  Really badly.....and then, my hubs bought me one.  I have never looked back.  This thing is just amazing.  I'm no spokes person but seriously everyone who loves to cook or is into their health and wants to experiment should really really consider it. 

So, I finally ventured into making nut milks and nut flours.  I have to say that in general, making ones own milk, isn't financially "better". But, health wise and taste wise, it is.  No preservatives or artificial anything.  For those who or control freaks about what they ingest into their body this is really the only way to go.  For me, I've found that I don't always have the time for it.  But, I've been able to make it a little more financially "better".  By using the leftover pulp from the nut milks and grinding it into nut flour. 

The cheapest one I've found so far is coconut.  Now here at Aldi (a German grocer) I can get unsweetened coconut shavings  for 55 euro cents for a 200 gram bag. This is a little under $1.00. 

To get the milk:

  • Dump 2 bags of coconut shavings into the vitamix pitcher (8 cup pitcher) then fill the rest of the pitcher up with filtered water (up to the 8 cup line). 
  • Blend on high for 3 minutes.  3 minutes is just enough time for me to get a bowl, fine mesh sieve and line it with an old gauze cotton diaper. My first try making nut milk, I realized I needed an additional filter to the metal sieve it was just too chalky without being filtered through both.  There are many options to using a cloth filter.  I didn't want to spend the money on cheese cloth or a milk bag (although these are the recommended methods).  Nor, did I want to take the time to go and get one.  So cloth diaper it was!  The gauze cotton kind not the regular cotton folding diaper.  A very very thin tea towel can work in a pinch as well.
  • Once 3 minutes of blending is up, turn off the blender, and pour contents through the cloth & sieve. This may take a little time. Once most of it has drained on it's own, the rest should be hand squeezed through rthe gauze. Form a sort of bag by gathering up the corners and twisting the top of the towl or diaper or guaze. (Similar to closing up a garbage bag) Then start squeezing.  Get as much moisture out as you possibly can. 
  • This can make about a liter of milk.  Pour milk into a pitcher and refrigerate.  WARNING!  This will not last long.  A couple days.  Then it will taste nasty. 

For the flour part so, now that we have our milk what do I do will all this left over coconut pulp?  Don't throw it away!!!
  • Get out a baking sheet, line with parchment and spread pulp out onto the pan evenly. 
  • Let the pulp lay out on the counter for a day or two until it's completely dry.  Be sure to break up the clumps so it will dry all the way.  If one has a dehydrator, dehydrate the pulp for faster results.  Also, one can use the oven on the lowest setting overnight.  The temperature and the general environment of the kitchen is what determines how long it will take for the pulp to dry out completely.
  • Once the pulp is completely dry, pour the contents into the dry canister of the vitamix and blend.  This creates about a cup to a cup and a half of coconut flour. 

There you have it.  For little under $2 I can produce a liter of coconut milk and 1 cup of coconut flour.  I realize that this seems tedious.  I have to admit, I don't do this all the time.  I'm fortunate enough that if I feel lazy, I have room in my budget to just go and buy a carton of coconut milk/drink at the local grocer.  But for those who don't have that option or, for those absolutely must know what is in their non-dairy milk this is a great and inexpensive option.

The same method can be applied to almond milk.  The measurements are the same.  The only difference is the almonds must be soaked over night, rinsed and then added to the blender.  It tastes absolutely phenomenal but isn't the cheapest option. I only end up with about 3/4 of a liter.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sunshine Salad

I was at Aldi the other day and purchased a bulger salad that was an "Indian" style salad.  While I love Indian food, I have trouble mastering the art of making it at home.  It was fabulous and filled with all kinds of things I was sure wasn't good for my diet.  This pre-made salad was laden with oil.  I knew I could get a similar flavor without adding all the fat and empty calories.   This was my first attempt.  A sort of mango chutney mixed with quinoa and lentils.

This Quinoa concoction is packed with vitamin C and enough protein to fill your tummy.  Feeling a winter slump?  This salad might just perk you up!

  • 1 cup Quinoa
  • 1 cup yellow lentils
  • 1 Red Onion
  • 3 Mangoes (peeled and finely chopped)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced or pushed through a garlic press)
  • 1 Tbsp. grated ginger root
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 finely chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 tsp. ground clove
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
    1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup orange or pineapple juice
  • 2 Tsp. Apple Cider Vinegar (this can be replaced with any other light colored Vinegar you may have on     hand or, even lemon juice)
  • 1 tsp. salt

Place mango, garlic, onion, bell pepper, ginger, raisins, clove, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, cayenne pepper orange juice, vinegar and salt into a medium/large mixing bowl. 

While this mixture is sitting, cook quinoa and yellow lentils according to package directions.  Rinse and Drain quinoa with cold water and put in the mixing bowl. Rinse and drain lentils with cold water and place these in the bowl with the rest of the ingredients. 

It will help to let this salad to sit for a little while in the fridge so that the raisins can plump up a bit before serving. Best to add almonds and cilantro before serving but won't ruin it entirely if it's added before hand.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Spanish Roasted Pepper Dip/Salad Dressing

I really really enjoy Spanish food.  Actually if the culture is "latin" I'm pretty much into it.  Spanish food is so so fun because it's such a melting pot of European, Middle Eastern and North African cuisine.  This is not strictly a salad dressing but can also be used as a sauce over a baked potato, pasta, fish or chicken.  Also, would make for a wonderful party dip.  Just watch the amount of water that's added to get the "dip" consistency.  I poured this dressing warm over my salad for lunch and it was truly wonderful.  Because I was out of paprika it wasn't used in this recipe BUT I may try it next time.  Great for the winter.  Red peppers, onions and garlic give the body lots of fighting power against colds other contagious bugs out there! This is a thick salad dressing and will make about 4 cups.  If you'd like it thinner, add more water.

  • 3 Red Peppers
  • 2 Red Onions (small size or, 1 large/med size)
  • 1 Head of Garlic
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cashews
  • 1 Tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce (or liquid amino acids)
  • 2 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp.  thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with foil and spraying it with oil/non stick cooking spray to prevent sticking. 

Cut the stem and seeds out of the red peppers, cut the top off of the head of garlic (no need to remove the skin see the below link to youtube clip), cut the red onion in half and remove the skin. Place all veggies on the prepared baking sheet. Broil in the oven for 10-15 minutes.  Until the skin is blackened on the veggies a bit.

Remove them from the oven and using tongs, transfer peppers and onions into the container of a high powered blender (a food processor may work for this as well). 

The head of garlic is a little different.  For those out there who have never roasted garlic and removed the skin afterward check out this youtube clip.

At about 1:18 of this youtube clip, it will show watchers how to remove the pod from the skin.  Once you've squeezed all the garlic out, discard the skin and place the pods into the blender container as well. 

Now just add all the other ingredients into the blender.  Blend on high until all ingredients are blended smooth or, to your desired consistency.  Voila! you've got a warm and delicious salad dressing without gobs and gobs of oil.

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