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Posts Tagged ‘vegan’

Tonight’s dinner was a successful cornucopia of veggies in disguise, and a quick and easy one at that!

By now, Ecogirl is four and a half, and Ecobaby isn’t such a baby anymore … two months past her second birthday already! How time flies! They are (mostly) adventurous eaters, but I sometimes still get stubborn resistance to eating vegetables.

So what do I do? I don’t bother with a fight. I just pull the veggie bait-and-switch, and dupe them into eating something delicious and nutritious that they weren’t expecting.

Who doesn’t like pasta?!?! That one always goes over well at our house, and likely at yours too. Cries of “Yay, fettuccine!” filled my ears, while they hadn’t the foggiest notion I’d be hiding several servings of veggies amidst the twirling mass of tasty noodles.

I’ve been trying to stay (somewhat) gluten-free while I’m exploring my newest diet to increase alkalinity. I’m not religious about it, but I do find I feel better when I reduce, or better yet eliminate, processed wheat products. Ecodaddy is mostly onboard with my unconventional dietary choices, but he is not a big fan of rice pasta, instead ever-loyal to those amber waves of grain that are a staple of the standard American diet (aka wheat).

But since he’s at work tonight and it’s just us girls having dinner at home, I took the opportunity to let my beloved rice pasta take center stage. You, however, are more than welcome to use any type of pasta you darned please.

veggie fettuccine

While I chose not to, feel free to top with a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if you are so inspired!

Quick and Easy Veggie Fettuccine

While the water boiled for the pasta, I warmed up a cast-iron pan and poured in a few glugs of extra virgin olive oil. When it had that glisten that told me it was just right for sizzling veggies, I added about 1/4 cup diced onions. I let the onions sauté for a few minutes til they softened and browned a bit, then added 1/4 cup chopped broccoli florets, 1/4 cup chopped cauliflower florets, about 1/4 cup vegetable broth and a few hefty pinches of sea salt. I put a lid on it and let it simmer over medium-low heat a few minutes, then took the lid off and let the cooking liquid evaporate. In went a couple of minced garlic cloves. Just another minute or two of sautéing so the garlic wouldn’t burn, and I then dumped in half a jar of store-bought tomato sauce (hey, even Ecomamas take short cuts sometimes!). Warmed it all up and voila: fast and easy veggie tomato sauce!

By this time, I had put a glug of extra virgin olive oil and a few hefty pinches of sea salt into the boiling water, and in went the rice fettuccine. Rice pasta is terribly gummy if overcooked, so you really need to keep a close eye (and taste) on it. It keeps cooking in the colander, so after straining it, I ran some cold water over the noodles to halt the cooking process.

Meanwhile, the now-empty pasta pot went back on the stove on medium-low heat with a glug of extra virgin olive oil (if you are not on a dairy-free diet like I am, I encourage you to use a few tablespoons of butter instead!), and the rinsed pasta went back in the pot and tossed with a few pinches of sea salt and a few turns of the black pepper mill.

I served the veggie-laden sauce over a bed of the well-seasoned fettuccine, and topped the girls’ bowls with grated parmesan cheese (parmigiano reggiano is our personal fave). Alas, no cheese for me, but still very tasty.

The girls both gobbled it up … I was thrilled when they asked for seconds, and simply floored when they asked for thirds!

Sidenote: several years ago, my sister gave me one of the greatest pieces of kitchen advice EVER. She said, whenever you have only a short amount of free time, like the five minutes you’re waiting for your kid to go potty before you head out of the house for an excursion, and there’s no other real project or task you can get done in this short time, do this: grab something out of the fridge, chop it, put it in a lidded container, and place back in the fridge.

Thanks to her, and all these little segmented five-minute periods of time throughout my day, I have nicely organized containers of just about every vegetable and fruit chopped and ready to use at a moment’s notice! Thanks sis!

What are some of your favorite ways to disguise veggies or your favorite time-saving kitchen tips?

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Have you heard of the Chinese five elements theory?

In traditional Chinese medicine, five elements of nature (wood, fire, earth, metal and water) represent different attributes of human health. Ideally we should have a balance of all five, but most of us are predisposed toward one element in excess of the others, causing an imbalance in the body with negative physical manifestations.

Check out this quiz to determine what element is most prevalent for you, and then read about your element’s characteristics and how to help yourself get back into balance.

A few months ago, my latest step in my journey to heal myself naturally of the curious skin rashes that seem to come and go, brought me to a new health practitioner: an acupuncturist and doctor of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) who assessed me based on the Chinese five elements theory. She asked me a few questions, looked at my tongue, eyes, and overall frame, then said my elemental type was Metal. She said that my big problem is that the pH balance in my body is off, and leaning too far in the direction of acidity.

Don’t know much about pH balance and the acid-alkaline balance in the body? Check out this nice little article to learn more, and then come on back to me and read on.

Surprisingly, one of the ways this over-acidity was manifesting, she said, was that my stomach contained too little digestive acid to properly digest my food. As such, I wasn’t getting enough nutrition from the foods I eat because my stomach wasn’t able to break everything down as it should.

She gave me nutritional counseling based on my Metal type and the over-acidity in my body, and designed a healing, pH balancing food protocol to increase my alkalinity. The new diet included the following dietary changes:

  • no beef
  • no eggs
  • no dairy
  • no bananas
  • no “vegetation” (that is, anything leafy or green, which was a pretty darned big part of my diet before)
  • more alkaline fruits and vegetables, especially with seeds (think cucumbers, eggplant, avocados, zucchini, butternut squash, tomatoes, yellow squash, etc.)
  • 90% of my diet as soups or stews (a bit labor intensive so I find I’m not doing quite as well on this one)
  • all grains pre-soaked before cooking

She also said to make broth to extract the nutrients of various foods into a form that can be consumed without digestion from the stomach. According to her assessment, I lack the requisite amounts of stomach acid to properly digest certain foods. I sat up straighter when she said this, because I already make a ton of broth and drink it every day, sometimes in the morning in a mug instead of coffee or tea.

You’re probably thinking to yourself Yes, yes Ecomama, this is all fine and good, five elements, mm hmm, interesting, but what about the coconut cream you mentioned in your title?

Well, the new diet means I’m now I’m officially dairy-free, and even though I didn’t eat a lot of dairy before, butter remains one of my true gustatory pleasures. Eliminating butter is, for me, the most excruciating part of giving up dairy. I don’t drink milk, I hardly eat cheese, I’ve gotten over the loss of yogurt, but oh … butter. How I miss you so.

Needless to say, since this diagnosis, I’ve been exploring lots of non-dairy alternatives to dairy foods. I tried some almond cheese that didn’t exactly taste like cheddar as the wrapper implied, but it melted well enough in a quesadilla to suit me.

I already make my own rice milk and almond milk, but there are certain recipes calling for cow’s milk, like my favorite healthy pancake/waffle batter or creamy oatmeal cooked on the stove, that need a little more fat to give them the fluffiness or richness they need.

One morning, as I was getting my ingredients out to make steel cut oatmeal on the stove, I found myself completely out of both rice and almond milk. I rifled through the pantry and spotted a can of coconut milk that had been waiting to be transformed into an amazing Thai curry dish that never quite materialized.

I dumped it all in a small storage container. The liquid poured out easily, and then I scraped out the thick solids that had risen to the top of the can and stuck to the lid. I topped the storage container with its own lid and with one hand, shook the container intensely to break up the solids and mix them into the liquid. With the other hand, I licked the silicone spoon I had used to scrape the can clean.

As soon as I licked, I had the flash realization that the texture of that coconut “cream” was very similar to butter, my long lost love! Be still my beating heart!

I immediately stopped shaking, but alas, the solids were already all mixed in. I vowed I wouldn’t shake the next can I opened, so that I could keep the buttery coconut cream intact.

Fast forward a couple of days, and another can of coconut milk was purchased and opened. This time, I didn’t mix the solids in with the liquid, but rather left it all separate. I toasted some whole wheat bread, and spread the coconut cream on it like butter.

I swear it spread the same way, glistened the same way, even melted slowly into the bread the same way. I sprinkled it with a generous pinch of sea salt, and while it didn’t taste exactly like butter, the fatty creaminess did hit the spot juuuuuust right.

Thank you, coconut cream. You have saved me from plummeting to the dangerous depths of severe butter withdrawal.

coconut cream toast

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I was the happy recipient of some coconuts from a friend’s yard last week. I’m a big fan of coconut water, and buy it by the case. I love shredded dried coconut in my oatmeal and my granola. But I haven’t had a slab of real coconut meat in years and years.

As a child, I spent the summers in Italy. My family would spend several weeks at the beach in Riccione on the Adriatic coast. Among the many tasty treats the tanned vendors would sell were pieces of raw coconut, soaking in big buckets of water. Coco! Coco bello! they’d cry, as they walked up and down the beach, heavy buckets splashing with every step.

I admit: I’ve seen plenty of whole fuzzy coconuts with their funny O-mouthed faces, but never actually opened one up to get to the tasty meat inside. Watching friends go at it, it always seemed like quite a production. Messy and a little violent, what with the whacking with a hammer and all.

So when my friend gave me these coconuts, I was a little intimidated. Luckily, she shared with me her favorite way to open them easily.

Phew. Whacking averted for now.

How to Open a Coconut the Easy Way

First, drill a hole in one of the three black spots, stick a straw in there and drink up all the delicious, mineral-rich coconut water. Did you know that coconut water replaces electrolytes in your body efficiently and naturally? It’s like the original Gatorade with none of the yukky artificial colors! When you can’t get any more through the straw, just invert the coconut over a glass so the rest of the coconut water can drain out of the drill hole.

Next pop the coconut in the oven and set to 300. Bake it for an hour. The coconut should crack naturally around the middle, making it easy to pry open with a knife.

Once you’ve got your two halves separated, carefully pry the meat away from the shell. This takes a little while so settle in and be patient. It’s worth it.

Discard the shell. There will be a thin layer of shell attached to the white meat, which you can cut away if you choose. Personally, I just eat it. More fiber. Less work.

Rinse the creamy white coconut pieces in water to remove any debris and enjoy  just like that. Or shred them and dehydrate.

Mmmmm … Coco bello!

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Kale is coming up in my spring garden, and it is one of my all-time favorite green veggies, any time of year. I started my seeds a little early this winter, and with the mild weather we had, it worked out perfectly.

Well, perfectly except for the squirrels, who have a penchant for digging out the acorns from the soil around the plants, and nibbling the tender kale leaves before I can get to them. Ecodaddy makes them an “offering” of sunflower seeds every morning, but I’m not so generous. I think he’s caving and paying off mafia rodents. Little pests.

The grey, rainy day today made me crave something warm and nourishing for dinner, like a soup or a stew. With an abundance of kale from my last coop order, plus the bounty that’s been coming up in my garden, I was looking for a way to use it, quick.

A few small adjustments to this recipe, a couple of extra hours to cook the dried beans, and voila: I had a healthy, delicious, soul-warming soup that used up my kale and pleased the masses!

White Bean and Kale Soup

  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cups chopped raw kale, packed tightly
  • 6 cups broth, chicken or vegetable
  • 16 ounce bag dried white beans like cannellini or navy (or two 15 oz cans, undrained)
  • 4 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian herb seasoning
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Grated parmesan cheese (optional)
  1. Rinse and pick over white beans; place in pot and cover with water by several inches. Bring to a boil, then turn off heat. Allow beans to sit for one hour, then discard soaking water.
  2. Return beans to pot, add 1 tsp sea salt and stir. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and place lid half on. Stir every 10-15 minutes, and let simmer for 1.5-2 hours until desired tenderness.
  3. In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil, then sauté onion til translucent. Add garlic and sauté for one more minute.
  4. Add kale, toss to coat with oil, and sauté, stirring, until leaves are fairly wilted, 5-10 minutes. Add a tiny bit of broth as you stir, to keep onions and garlic from burning.
  5. Add 4 cups of broth, 2 cups (or one can) of cooked beans, tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper. Simmer 10-15 minutes.
  6. In a blender or food processor, combine remaining 2 cups broth with 2 cups beans (or one can) and blend to an even consistency. Stir into soup and simmer 15-20 minutes more.
  7. Ladle into bowls and top with grated parmesan cheese, if you so choose.

For the kids, I poured the chunky soup back into the blender and pureed it. While it wasn’t the most appealing shade of green, it was quite delicious, especially topped with parmesan.

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This is how I’m squashing my chocolate craving tonight.

photo credit Oh She Glows

While this recipe considers the buckwheat optional, I chose to add it as a tribute to my partly Russian roots, and to give a little extra crunch. My Russian acupuncturist once bought me a bag, telling me it is high in iron and B vitamins, and iz gooood toooo noooorish blaaaahd.

And by now you already know how much I love the humble chia seed, bursting with fiber and omega goodness.

Need I even say anything at all on how I feel about chocolate? It borders on obsession. The darker the better, like 70% or higher.

Here I used the standard 60% bittersweet chips, a la Nestle. Because they have some sugar, I do not use any additional sweetener. If you choose to use darker chocolate, feel free to add a squirt of raw honey or agave.

Chocolate Oatmeal Freezer Cookies

  • 1.25 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips, melted
  • 2 medium bananas
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 3 tbsp buckwheat groats
  • 2 tsp cocoa powder
  • Squirt of honey or agave (optional)
  1. Line a muffin pan with muffin liners and set aside.
  2. Roughly chop banana and mash into melted chips.
  3. Stir remaining ingredients into chocolate banana mixture and stir well until oats are coated with chocolate.
  4. Spoon mixture evenly into twelve muffin liners and freeze for about an hour, or until firm.

You can leave these in the freezer and they will stay somewhat chewy, not freezing up to a completely solid state. They definitely squash my chocolate fix any time of day or night. Usually night. Late at night. Like now.

Excuse me, I think I hear the freezer calling my name …

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Remember those ceramic statues in the seventies shaped like animals or a human head that you’d cover with a fine layer of tiny black seeds and water daily? Sprouts would grow, making it like fur or a really tight ‘fro.

Ch-ch-ch-chia!

Chia seeds provide super-high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial for brain development. Omega-3’s are also linked to joint health as well as elevated mood; one Scandinavian study showed that people taking an omega-3 supplement for four months reported happier outlooks on life.

Eating seeds can make you happier. Who knew!

The little black seeds can hold 8-10x their weight in water, making a gelatinous substance that can be used in many different ways. It can substitute for eggs in various recipes, baking or otherwise. I also add it to foods where my three year old won’t notice, like pasta sauce or scrambled eggs, as well as putting it in Ecodaddy’s morning smoothie. The seeds don’t really have a particular flavor, so they are very easy to camouflage.

Photo credit: MySuperFoods

Chia Gel

  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 1 quart mason jar, or similar lidded container
  1. Place seeds and water in container and seal lid. Shake vigorously for a few seconds.
  2. Let rest for a few minutes, then shake again. Gel should be ready in ten minutes.
  3. Refrigerate and use for up to two weeks.

If you want to use your gel as a substitute for eggs in recipes, the general rule of thumb is 1/3 cup chia gel per egg. I do this often in baking recipes, and neither Ecodaddy nor the Ecokids ever know the difference.

It’ll be our happy little secret.

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My Ecokids are pretty great eaters. They will gobble up just about anything I put in front of them.

However, green veggies still get a nose turned up at them most of the time, unless they are tucked away in some delicious way, like this …

Luckily, I am a master of disguise!

Here are some of my favorite ways to get greens into my kids:

Inside an omelette/frittata

We adore eggs at our house, and if our homeowner’s association would let us, we’d have chickens in the yard. Bock-bock-bock-buh-GAWK!

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Chop some onion, and finely chop or chiffonade your favorite leafy green vegetable (e.g., kale, chard, spinach, beet greens, etc). Mince a clove of garlic.
  • Heat an ovenproof skillet over medium heat, add oil, and sauté onions til soft. Add your greens and sauté for a few minutes til wilted, sprinkling with a little sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Then add garlic and sauté for one more minute.
  • Add a little more oil to the pan, or butter if you prefer, and then add a couple of eggs. Scramble to mix it all up in the pan, then let it sit over medium/low heat.
  • When the edges start to look cooked, sprinkle with cheese (or non-dairy cheese alternative), and pop in the oven for a few more minutes until the top of the eggs are set and solid and the cheese has melted a little.
  • Slide it out of the pan to cool, and cut into wedges. These can also be eaten cold later as a nice, protein-rich snack.
Inside a quesadilla
It’s amazing how two corn tortillas and some cheese can make anything taste delicious! Leftovers included! Our favorite quesadilla fillings include leftover taco meat, soy deli meats (bologna and salami flavors are Ecogirl’s favorites), or just veggies (e.g., finely chopped greens, grated raw carrots, finely diced tomatoes, etc.).
  • Starting building your quesadilla on one of the corn tortillas, layering cheese or non-dairy cheese alternative first, then your other fillings, and a little more cheese last.
  • Heat a small skillet over medium heat and add some oil or butter. Carefully place your loaded tortilla into the pan and leave it for a few minutes until it starts to crisp and brown on the bottom.
  • Meanwhile, oil or butter one side of your other tortilla and place it oily side up on top of your loaded tortilla. Press down with spatula a few times, wait another minute, and then carefully flip it over.
  • Leave it in the pan a few more minutes til the second side browns, then remove to a plate, let cool, and cut into wedges. I’m telling you: no matter what I put inside, I have yet to see any left behind on the plate!
             
Inside a smoothie
Feel free to experiment with any liquid and any fruits, but try to choose leafy green vegetables that have a very mild flavor, like spinach, chard, or even beet greens, which are actually slightly sweet. Yesterday’s smoothie was enjoyed by both Ecogirl and Ecobaby, much to my delight. Recipe below.
  • In the blender, I added some plain kefir (liquidy, drinkable yogurt), vanilla kefir, half a banana, several frozen strawberries, and a generous handful of raw spinach leaves.
  • I blended until thoroughly combined, poured into a fun cup with an even more fun straw, and voila: Ecogirl had the equivalent of a small spinach salad first thing in the morning, but way yummier and much more fun!
Straight up, with loads of garlic
And then there’s garlic. Everyone loves garlic at my house, and some veggies will actually pass the kid test sautéed with only olive oil, several cloves of minced garlic, and salt and pepper. In fact, nine times out of ten, Ecobaby will choose garlicky green beans over a sweet fruit like bananas or pears. Remember that minced garlic cooks very quickly and burns very easily, so it should be added last, for just the final minute or two of cooking time.
  • Steam your choice of veggie (e.g., broccoli, green beans, zucchini) until slightly soft. (Note: save the nutritious steam water and use it to later cook a grain like rice or quinoa)
  • Get a large skillet or wok nice and hot, and add some oil.
  • Add your partly steamed veggies to the pan, and sauté for a few minutes.
  • Add garlic, and sauté for one to two more minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Add sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
I am always experimenting with sneaky ways to hide green veggies in various foods, so stay tuned for more ideas. Meanwhile, I would love to hear some of your favorite ideas, so please leave a comment and share what works at your house!
Photo credit: Simply Recipes

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