3/4/15 at 9:26. Today we have a reflection in our daily life of a mathematical concept. The number π is a mathematical constant representing the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Its decimal representation does not come into a permanent repeating pattern so the recitation of Pi can go on and on… and believe me, I know people who can do this. From the time I first heard of Pi until now, my life has been filled with many wondrous discoveries both mathematical and intuitive. In honor of the journey, I decided to jump on the national bandwagon of “Pi” day with a twist. A vegan, gluten free pie with no refined sugar. A challenge indeed and hard to believe such a thing could even remotely compare to the beauties that I saw while walking the streets of Paris so many years ago. Staring at the masterful confections lining the trays in the windows, I marveled at the artistry. Truly, a pastry chef is part chemist and part magician. However with the modern era, uncertain quality of wheat, and food sensitivities, my days with wheat are dwindling.
Loose Carob nibs
I have been more inclined to eat seasonally over the last 5 years as I have become a regular to the downtown Phoenix farmer’s market. Available in the last few weeks, there have been a great array of choices such as lavender, mint, dates, pecans and carob.
Carob, a distant once-removed cousin of chocolate, imparts a similar flavor with a different nutritional profile, rich in calcium, without theobromine; some people find its nutty flavor easier to tolerate. I have had a few dishes in the past with carob in them and was excited to see it last week at the community farm table, which likely means it was gathered from a public place or grown at someone’s home. It also matches well with savory flavor. With most recipes I offer, there is always room to add, subtract or shift as needed for your own palate. These are my thoughts on what tastes good; however, there are many more combinations and fun elements that can come across with these ingredients. I don’t tend to eat sweets very often and when I do, I prefer they are not filled with refined sugar and flour.
- 1 cup gluten free oat flour
- 1 cup raw pecans
- 2 soaked dates
- 1 tablespoon course carob powder
- dash salt
- 1/8 tsp cardamom
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
Blend the ingredients together in food processor and press into a pie or tart shell. Bake for 15 minutes at 325 degrees or until slightly brown. I used a small toaster oven to conserve heat.
Crust made with locally grown pecans
- 2 cups nut or seed milk (best if homemade or Carrageenan free) or light coconut milk
- 1 tsp Agar Agar Powder (more will make the pie filling more firm)
- 1/3 cup maple syrup (taste the “filling” if you like it sweeter, add more)
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract (I use non-alcohol base)
- dash pepper
- 3 tablespoons finely ground carob powder
- 1/8 tsp fresh grated ginger
- 1 tsp dried or fresh lavender
- 1 tsp dried or fresh mint
Add nut milk, vanilla, maple syrup and ginger to blender and puree for several minutes until everything is smooth. Bring 1 cup of water to boil, take off heat and add lavender and mint and allow to steep for 5 minutes, strain and — over warm heat (does not have to be boiling) — add the agar agar. Stir until dissolved. Add to pureed nut milk mix and blend for 1- 2 minutes until smooth. Adapting these ratios can be done for different pie pan sizes. This recipe makes about 2 1/2 cups of pie filling. If you need to adapt, prior to making the pie, add “water” to your pie pan and measure the amount of water needed to “fill” it. Subtract about 1/3-1/2 cup for the pie crust and that will give you the amount of pie filling needed and the recipe can be adjusted by the need factor. Be sure the pie shells are cool prior to putting mix in. Lemon cream pie with coconut milk would be another great combination.
Enjoy with a friend and serve with a wonderful cup of chamomile tea, in bloom right now and available at the farmers’ market.
Spending time in the garden this time of year in Phoenix when the rest of the country is surrounded by snow is a topic I will tread lightly on. We are very blessed here in the desert to have our winter be one of the primary growing seasons.
I have come to appreciate the beauty in the garden as it presents itself to us in everyday life … each moment filled with greens and blues and changing as the sun shifts its position in the sky. In reality, I have never been a talented gardner. I have spent many years admiring and celebrating the gardening efforts of others in my community garden. Sunset and sunrise are the times when I tend to be most excited to be taking pictures as with each passing moment, the light changes and the colors become richer. It is a delightful experience to wander through the gardena and return with a bowl of kale, salad greens and fresh herbs to cook with.
Potato Croquettes with Fresh Garden Greens Luminous Foods
Recently, I said goodbye to one of my most precious friends, my dog, Chloe. As her health declined, she offered such sweet sentiments of love and how simple it can be to cherish each day. She was diagnosed with a large liver mass in early January that was likely liver cancer. On the way home from the vet after finding out, I found her so relaxed that I was almost puzzled. She could clearly sense that we were all very distraught over her diagnosis and yet she basked in the rays of light filtering into the car. Over the next several weeks, her heath declined and in time it became time to help her transition with grace. I’ll share more on this experience in the near future as it was so moving and powerful.
In truth, in times of great emotional intensity, I tend to stop eating. I loose my appetite and gradually my energy levels decrease, leaving me feeling drained and uninspired and so the cycle goes. After she died, I realized that on a very basic level, I needed to celebrate her life with a meal that I could enjoy deeply. So….. my favorite go to of all time is probably potato croquettes, you know the deep fried kind that come from a great vegetarian Japanese restaurant (I don’t eat food that has been fried with meat) covered in Panko crumbs. In light of no deep fryer at home and a general trend to be gluten free, I opted to revise the recipe a bit to create a healthier option.
Making the croquettes is a fairly easy endeavor as follows:
- 2 cups mashed russet potatoes (I used an old fashioned potato ricer)
- 1/4 cups seeds of choice (hemp, sunflower, pumpkin or mixture)
- 1/2 cup frozen organic peas (I keep them on hand to ice injuries and occasions such as this where I don’t have many fresh vegetables)
- 1/8 tsp zest of lemon (we have Meyer lemons in season right now)
- 1/3 cup finely diced kale of any type
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped dill (can be dry or fresh)
- 1/8 tsp hing (Asofoetida)
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4- 1/2 tsp dried turmeric (it has a distinct flavor that not everyone likes… try just a little and add more if the flavor suits you)
- salt to taste
Turmeric adds great color with sauerkraut
Mix everything and shape into patties about 3 inches wide and 1/2 – 3/4 inch thick and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until crispy. They can last for several days prior to cooking or frozen and heated up so bigger batches can be made and saved for busy times. An important element to consider is that this recipe is merely a suggestion to get started. You can add or subtract elements that sound good and change the ratios to find a taste that suits you on a particular day. Trust your instincts and vary it up with different spice blends such as Herbes de Provence or cilantro and cumin. Different doshas can have different spice blends that support the digestion of food.
In light of all the beauty in Phoenix right now, I like to serve this on bed of fresh greens from the garden with homemade sauerkraut. So indeed, we do need to eat when going through tunnels of transformation and sometimes it is important to find the foods that soothe the soul and nourish the body.
Making the move to gluten free living has proven beneficial for many people and even those that do not have proven celiac disease are making the change. One important notion to consider in this transition is to resist incorporating many of the readily available gluten free products at the grocery store. With the enticing “gluten-free” label, we are misled into thinking it could be a healthy alternative. With rice–flour or tapioca flour as the base, these products are often not offering beneficial micronutrients and fiber and thus lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar. Because of this, these products may also lead to weight gain and inflammation long term.
I have always loved molasses ginger cookies after first tasting them many years ago in Colonial Williamsburg and finding a vegan and gluten free alternative was challenging. After 5 batches, I may have found a version that is delicious in new ways and is more supportive to healthy function in sensitive gastrointestinal tracts. Molasses offers a vegan iron source and the chia/hemp “egg substitute” offers the healthy omega three fatty acids, fiber and trace minerals. It is important to be mindful of the effects of food when making the change to gluten-free eating and this recipe can be adjusted to your unique palate. For example, more coconut oil with less water will give a moister cookie and less or more sugar will change the taste also. Sometimes I put in more ginger for an extra zest. Listening to your intuition as you cook is an important tool.
- 1 cup almond flour
- 1 cup coconut flour [or chickpea flour or gluten free flour blend (if that is all you can find)]
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
- 1 teaspoon dried ginger powder
- dash nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup evaporated organic vegan cane sugar (you may want more – I prefer foods not too sweet)
- 1 1/4 cup of water (may need more if dough too thick)
- 1 tablespoon hemp seeds
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 3 tablespoons organic dark molasses
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the water, hemp and chia seeds in blender and let sit for 10 minutes while preparing the dry ingredients. Combine flours, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg and baking soda. After the water, hemp and chia have had a chance to soak, blend thoroughly until fine consistency. Add coconut oil and molasses to the “wet mixture” and blend for 30 seconds or thoroughly mixed. Combine the wet and dry ingredients. It may have very thick consistency and be best blended by hand (think play dough).
Almond flour and coconut flour may have variable amounts of fluid in them and if needed more water or more coconut flour can be added to achieve the appropriate consistency. Place a scoop (about 2 tablespoons) on greased cookie sheet and press down to create flat surface with fork. Extra hemp seeds or cane sugar can be placed on top of the cookie prior to cooking. They can also remain plain. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes however keep an eye on your oven the first time. Peek in around 15 minutes, when they are slightly browned and no longer appear “wet” in the middle they are close to done. Cooking longer will also give a crispier cookie.
Enjoy as a special treat with fresh almond milk chai and be wary of supermarket gluten free cookies.
Kale chips are fast becoming a staple for many people. In this post, I would like to offer a way to combine several elements. First is Bazilnut milk and with the extra nut “pulp”, you can make kale chips. A win win situation! I like to use the dinosaur Kale. The best part about kale chips is that they can be made any number of ways. From the spices to the nuts combined with them, there are many options.
Nut milks are also anther easy tool to add to the kitchen. Brazilnuts in particular offer a great resource for a quick nut milk as they do not need to soak as long as almonds or other nuts do.
To make the nut milk, soak the Brazil nuts for several hours (or just use right away). When ready to blend, use a 4:1 ratio of nuts to filtered water. In this recipe, I made the nut milk into turmeric milk. An old recipe used by adepts of yoga, it is very healing to the body. The myriad of beneficial effects of Turmeric are exciting to ponder.
Ingredients for Turmeric Milk:
- 4 cups nut milk
- 2 teaspoons turmeric paste (made by reducing 4:1 ratio of turmeric and water and boiling to paste over 7 minutes
- 1/2 tsp chopped ginger
- dash mineral salt
- 1 tsp maple syrup (you can add more)
- pinch cardamon/nutmeg
- 1 tsp almond oil can also be added however if the nuts are freshly blended
Blend nuts and water. Strain as seen below.
Watch and learn.
Then with finished milk, blend the remaining ingredients. This blending is best with a high speed blender such as a Vitamix but it would be just find to use an immersion blender if that is all you had.
You can see there is extra nut “pulp” after making the nut milk. People often wonder what might be a good use for this. I have found that making kale chips is an easy next step. Using the lacinto or dinosaur kale, wash and cut out the center section. Depending on how much kale and pulp you have gives a sense of how much of other ingredients are mixed in. In this case, I had 1 1/2 cups of pulp and 4 bunches of kale. I added 1/4 cup olive oil and 4 tsp of spice blend. Mix all the elements together and massage onto the kale. There are many options for spicing kale chips. One that I particularly enjoy is an Ethiopian spice blend, berbere. Each batch will be different and the main idea I would like to pass on is that there is no wrong way to make them.
Next step is the dehydrator and they are placed inside at 115 degrees for 6 hours. Sometimes the nuts dry nicely to the kale and other times, they fall off. This extra topping can be used as a vegan cheese and is great on soups or salads. Hopefully no part of the process of making the kale chips or nut milk leads to waste.
Let me know the spices that you like on your kale chips as I am excited to try new options!
Creating healthy meals that children will enjoy can be an adventure. In my younger years, my family would frequently visit one of the fast food chains after church. Seemed fitting at the time because as a young child, nothing was more enjoyable then partaking of the small sliders after the long wait. Since I have made the switch to plant based eating, there has been a continual joy at reinventing old favorites and perhaps making them even tastier than before. Quinoa sliders are a very versatile meal for any cook.
With quinoa as the base, there are many options to flavor the burger. Nuts, seeds, vegetables and spices can be added as your imagination leads you. And once they are cooked, a wide range of toppings can be added for extra flavor as well. Seen below is cashew “sour cream”, fresh lime pickle, sauerkraut, and guacamole. As the ingredient lists indicates, this is a very forgiving recipe. If you note that the mixture seems to not adhere, more ground flax or chia could be added. Additionally, the quinoa tends to “gel” (get excited about soluble fiber and plant lignans here) after a few minutes of cooling.
Ingredients (for 12 small burgers)
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 cup shredded vegetables (can be a combo of: butternut squash, carrots, cabbage, zucchini)
- 2 tablespoon fresh ground flax (hemp and chia can also be used)
- 2 tablespoons fresh greens or herbs from garden (i.e dill, parsley, basil)
- 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds (sunflower can also be used)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- Soak quinoa for several hours in filtered water. Rinse and strain away the extra water.
- Bring 2 cups water to boil and add quinoa. Cook about 12 minutes on medium heat. Ideally the quinoa has become a little “overcooked” as this helps create the sticky elements of the burger.
- Bring 2 cups water to boil and add shredded vegetables. Cook for 5 minutes and strain water off.
- Put all ingredients into the food processor and pulse several times.
- Shape into desired patty size, I tend to use an ice cream scoop and push them flat to keep a uniform size. Place on oiled baking pain (coconut oil would be fine).
- Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until desired “crispy” ness has been achieved.
- Place with toppings onto desired bun. For a gluten free option, I used a 2.5 inch round biscuit cutter on a toasted gluten free vegan pizza crust to cut small “buns”.
Some additional burger combination ideas:
- Curry spice with mango chutney topping
- Dill mustard with sauerkraut topping
- Chili spice with guacamole
- Basil pesto with vegan mozzarella
Send me your creative inspirations and I will share them.
“The earth laughs in flowers.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Yesterday, while working at home, my front door buzzed. I opened the door to find a beautiful pile of basil waiting for me. Sweet basil or Ocimum basilicum has been an integral part of gardens for thousands of years and has antibacterial, anti-fungal and antioxidant properties. Additionally basil and rosemary oils have long been used for treating, among other things, colds, fever, cough, asthma, sinusitis and rheumatism, as well as accelerating the process of wound healing (Sienkiewicz, 2013).
We are quite blessed in my condominium community as one of our residents is an avid gardener. Thanks to her, we have four raised beds with a variety of vegetables and herbs. As fall descends in Phoenix, we are blessed with a new selection of our local crops. What does one do with 2 cubic feet of basil? Instead of drying it, I decided to make a simple pesto from the leaves and freeze it in an ice cube tray to use over the next few months. I have never made the same pesto recipe twice and am certain that the cycle of the moon, politics in Central America and how my brother’s new job is going all seem to have a subtle interconnected bearing on how the ingredients have grown and thus combine and taste to me. Here’s today’s recipe although next time it could be more or less of one of the elements:
- 10 cups Basil leaves removed from stalk
- 1 cup extra virgin organic olive oil
- ½ cup organic hemp seeds
- ¼ cup lime juice
Blend ingredients in a blender or food processor. It is ok to put a bit of water in if you are having difficulty blending. Place in an ice cube freezer tray overnight. Take the cubes out and store in a glass container in the freezer. (I try to avoid plastics due to their xenoestrogenic properties)
Extra parts were also reserved to soak with white wine vinegar to use as a vinaigrette after soaking for several weeks.
After such a wonderful gift yesterday, I found myself in the garden today with the early morning sun. All organic, the garden is even inviting for the bunnies in the desert and they seem to know to how to find their way here. I have cherished having a free moment in the early part of the day to sit next to the flowers and vegetables in their eternal quest to grow as they gently eat the light falling from the sky and create vital nutrients. In Phoenix, our harvest comes long after other parts of the country. Our summer is seemingly a winter in which heat blankets our city thoroughly.
This morning, a bumblebee found his way through the flowers of the garden. In years past, I can recall a certain disliking of the bee – hoping it might find another spot away from me to find his food. Today, though, I found myself feeling grateful for his presence and concerned for the colony future. Wandering from flower to flower, the bee offered me a growing appreciation for its vital role. Reporting on colony collapse in recent years has moved from the writings of environmentalists to mainstream media. Read here in the NY Times all the recent chronicles on the bee. Or this article from Time Magazine in which the problems have been attributed to:
- A parasitic mite called Varroa destructor that has often been found in decimated colonies
- Several viruses
- A bacterial disease called European foulbrood that is increasingly being detected in U.S. bee colonies
- The use of pesticides, including neonicotinoids, a neuroactive chemical
While no single agent has been identified as the prime reason causing the collapse, the pesticide, neonicotinoid, has been implicated in the process. I believe it useful to sign this petition to bring awareness to the EPA that we are demanding safer agricultural practices. Sign here. Appreciating our interconnectedness is an essential element for future generations to enjoy health and wellness on this planet.
We ought to do good to others as simply as a horse runs, or a bee makes honey, or a vine bears grapes season after season without thinking of the grapes it has borne.”
Sienkiewicz et al. The Potential of Use Basil and Rosemary Essential Oils as Effective Antibacterial Agents. Molecules 2013, 18, 9334-9351; doi:10.3390/molecules18089334