Monday, October 20, 2014

Shredded Kale And Quinoa Salad With Red Grapes, Bell Pepper, And Sunflower Seeds
Vegan and Gluten Free

Adding quinoa to a kale salad turns it into a meal!

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Inspired at the Airport
My daughter and I just spent a lovely four days in Sedona. Besides the beautiful red rocks and relaxing spa treatments, we were blown away with the food. One restaurant was better than the other. So when we got to the Phoenix airport to go home, we were kind of bummed that our last meal would probably be terrible. I mean, when's the last time you had a good meal at an airport?

We were pretty shocked when we walked into Chelseas Kitchen in Terminal 4. The restaurant itself was large and beautiful and the food was definitely NOT what you would expect at an airport (unless you are in the International Terminal in SFO.)

Chelseas Kitchen at the Phoenix Airport

The dish that inspired me the most was their kale salad (they were kind enough to make one without the parmesan cheese). It was mixed with quinoa, bell pepper, juicy red grapes, and sunflower seeds. To me the red grapes were the best and most surprising ingredient. I never thought of throwing a grape into a kale salad and their sweetness just made the flavors explode. And any time you add a grain, such as quinoa or rice, to a salad, it turns the dish into a hearty meal.

When I got home, I immediately tried to replicate it and I think I did it. They use more oil than I do but since I need to knock off a few pounds from the vacation, I cut down on the dressing.

So here it is, my dairy-free, gluten-free version of Chelseas Kitchen's "Shredded Kale & Quinoa Salad. I honestly think it's now my FAVORITE kale salad recipe. You should try it!

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Shredded Kale and Quinoa Salad 
Vegan and Gluten Free
[makes 4 meal-size or 6 side salads]

1 cup dry quinoa
4 packed cups thinly sliced raw kale
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon cold-pressed hemp oil*
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small red bell pepper, small diced
1 1/2 cups seedless red grapes, halved
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
* If you don't have hemp oil, just use two tablespoons of olive oil instead of one.

To prepare quinoa: Rinse quinoa in cold water. 

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Stir in quinoa, lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is cooked, about 18 to 20 minutes. Set aside to cool a bit.

(To cook your quinoa in a pressure cooker, cook for 5 minutes with 1 1/4 cups of water.)

While the quinoa is cooking and cooling, place the kale in a large bowl with the lemon and oil and mix thoroughly. Set aside for 20 minutes to "marinate."

Marinating the kale in lemon and oil makes it tender.

Add the quinoa and the remaining ingredients to the kale. Mix thoroughly and serve.

Per meal-sized serving (4): 326 calories, 12 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 796 mg omega-3 and 5,038 mg omega-3 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 10 g protein, 48 g carbohydrates, 6 g dietary fiber, and 575 mg sodium.

Per side salad (6): 217 calories, 8 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 530 mg omega-3 and 3,358 mg omega-3 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 7 g protein, 32 g carbohydrates, 4 g dietary fiber, and 383 mg sodium.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Easy-To-Make Pickled Jalapeño Slices
Refrigerate Or Can - Make Them This Weekend!

Make your own jars of pickled jalapeño slices. It's easy!

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Harvesting my Peppers
It's been really warm for October here in Northern California and my peppers love it! I'm still harvesting pardrons and my bell peppers are finally turning red and orange. My two little jalapeño plants have quite a few peppers on them too even though I've been picking them off all summer. Since I'm headed out of town with my daughter this weekend to soak up some Vortex energy in the red rocks of Sedona, I decided to harvest the rest of my jalapeños before I leave. (Even if you don't have jalapeños in your garden, it's a great time to buy some at the farmer's market!)

My two little plants still had over a pound of jalapeños.

Two years ago I dehydrated my jalapeños and used them in chili, curry, and anything else that I wanted to spice up. 

But this year I thought I'd pickle them. Here's what I did.

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Pickled Jalapeño Slices
[makes 5 half-pint jars]

1 1/4 pounds jalapeños
2 cups filtered water
2 cups while distilled vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons pickling salt*
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon black or rainbow peppercorns
10 small cloves garlic

* You can use any salt as long as it's not iodized and doesn't have anti-caking agents. To determine how much you will need, see the Morton Salt Conversion Chart.

Clean your jars and 2-piece non-reactive lids with hot soapy water. If you are going to keep these in the refrigerator, this will be sufficient. If you are going to can the jalapeños in a hot water bath, follow the instructions from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Wash your jalapeños. Wearing rubber gloves, cut them into 3/8 inch slices. Set them aside.

Bring the water, vinegar, sugar, salt and oregano to a boil, stirring until the sugar and salt completely dissolve.

Meanwhile, divide up the garlic and peppercorns into the 5 half-pint jars.

Place 2 cloves of garlic and 1/5 of the peppercorns in each jar.

When the vinegar solution comes to a boil, stir in the sliced jalapeños and turn off the heat. Make sure each slice is submerged. If you are not going to can them, let them sit in the hot water for 5 to 10 minutes. If you are going to can them, don't do this since they will already be getting heated again for 10 minutes.

Divide the jalapeño slices among the 5 jars using a funnel.Then fill each jar with the vinegar solution up to 1/4 inch to the top of the jar.

Fill the jars with sliced jalapeños and liquid.

At this point, you can screw the non-reactive lids on the jars, let them cool and pop them into the refrigerator until needed. They will last for months if unopened.

If you would like to can them, screw the two-piece non reactive tops on until secure but not too tight. Place them in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Remove, let cool on a rack and make sure each top seals and "pops". Then tighten the rims a bit more.

Make sure the jars are covered with at least 1 or 2 inches of water.

Let the pickles rest for 5 days to a week before eating. Then enjoy!

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Dark Chocolate Hemp Seeds by Himalania
Makes A Great Topping For Fruit Or Ice Cream

Hemp seeds and chocolate are a great combination!

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Healthy, Yummy Treat
When I saw this new product in the store, I scooped it off of the shelf as quickly as I could and couldn't wait to try it. You know I'm a big hemp seed fan - to date I've got over a dozen posts on them. And who doesn't love dark chocolate?

Hemp seeds are one of the best sources of highly digestible protein. And they contain all of the essential amino acids making them a "complete" protein. 

Hemp seeds also contain a good amount of omega-3 fatty acid with the perfect balance of omega-6. These fatty acids are important for the nervous system to function, for brain development, healthy skin, and a healthy heart and immune system. They also contain Stearidonic Acid (SDA) and Gamma LInolenic Acid (GLA), both of which help you utilize your omega essential fatty acids.

The best news is that American farmers are once again allowed to grow hemp thanks to a provision in the 2014 farmed bill. Because hemp is in the cannabis family (but has almost no THC and cannot make your high), the U.S drug laws prohibited the growing of hemp in the U.S. But everyone has finally come to their senses and now our farmers can tap into this very lucrative market. Canada's hemp production is bringing in almost a billion dollars a year! 

Although they look like papaya seeds, these papaya cubes
are covered with dark chocolate hemp seeds!

Himalania Dark Chocolate Covered Hemp Seeds
Two tablespoons of these chocolate covered hemp seeds provide:
160 calories 
9 g total fat
500 mg omega-3 fatty acid
1,500 mg omega-6 fatty acid
3 g high quality protein
3 g dietary fiber
17 g carbohydrates
0 mg sodium
Rich in iron, magnesium and copper

I love these over fruit or non-dairy ice cream. You can also sprinkle them on yogurt or bake them into muffins.

Chocolate covered hemp seeds over bananas and raspberries

Where to Buy
I found these at my local Whole Foods Market. But, as most everything else, you can buy them online at Amazon. If your local health food store doesn't have them, ask them to get them. They are delicious and healthy and I highly recommend them! 

They state that they are not dairy free (so they are NOT VEGAN) but I'm lactose intolerant and have had no issues with them since I only sprinkle a teaspoon or so on my fruit.


Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Food Allergies Can Cause Snoring

Do you or your partner snore? It could be your diet.

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Does your Partner Snore?
My husband snores a little. Not much at all, really, but enough to wake me up. Having grown up in New York City, I can sleep through road sounds, subways rolling underground, fire engines blaring, the Costanzas screaming in the next apartment, and other city noises. But now that we live in the country, it's so darn quiet that the slightest noise can wake me up. Unfortunately I don't fall back asleep very easily so quite often I'm sleep deprived.

I've tried to create more white noise to drown out his snoring. I play background records of rain and waves breaking. Our air purification machine also puts out a nice hum, but none of these things really work. I've tried ear plugs but they make me feel like I'm in a sensory deprivation chamber!

Why Sleep is Important
Chronic sleep loss can lead to a number of health problems.
* Lack of sleep lessens your ability to learn, concentrate and remember things.
* Poor sleep can alter hormones that affect our appetite and how the body processes carbohydrates, both of which can cause weight gain.
* Loss of sleep can effect your mood and cause you to be irritable and impatient.
* Sleep deprivation can weaken your immune system. Adequate sleep is needed to fight disease - from the common cold to cancer.

What Causes Snoring?
Some people snore when they have a cold or a sinus infection. Actually, anything that can block the airway can cause snoring - even large tonsils and adenoids.
Too much alcohol can also relax the throat and tongue muscles which can also cause blockage of the airway.
Overweight people have a tendency to snore because it can lead to bulky throat tissue.

Can it be Food Allergies?
For a long time I suspected that Doug's snoring was due to his diet. He eats way too much wheat. He can polish off a loaf of bread in the blink of an eye. He makes 3 small loaves of banana bread for our vacation rental guests - 1 for them and 2 for him. He eats multiple bowls of wheat flakes several times a day or polishes off an English muffin or two for a snack. We often eat cream of wheat for breakfast when it's cold out. And of course pasta is one of our favorite food groups.
Because he can eat all this and still be the thinest and fittest man I know, it was hard to suggest that he kick the wheat habit. Except that I thought it was the reason he snored!

The Big Experiment
I noticed that every time my husband consumed any wheat product, he'd either sneeze or get all stuffy. I gently suggested that he try not eating wheat for a few weeks - "stop eating wheat or I'm moving you into the guest room!". (As previously mentioned, sleep deprivation can make you bitchy.)

So for almost a month now, Doug's been gluten free.
* He switched his morning cereal to oatmeal or gluten-free flakes made from corn, rice, flax, quinoa, or amaranth.
* He now buys gluten-free English muffins (which unfortunately have the consistency of hockey pucks but they are growing on us.)
* We eat a lot of rice (especially now that we've discovered Tamaki Haiga.)
* He always asks for gluten-free soy sauce when we eat at Asian restaurants.
* We only eat Ancient Harvest pasta made from quinoa and corn or Tinkyada Brown Rice pasta.
* We make muffins and baked goods out of oat flour.

The Results
I'm happy to report that Doug has stopped snoring almost completely and I'm getting a lot more sleep. He's getting a lot more sleep too because I'm not poking him in the ribs asking him to roll over and stop snoring.

Other Allergens
A number of foods can cause allergies and lead to snoring. If this is an issue for you or your sleep-mate, you can try eliminating some or all of these common allergens. 
The following foods account for 90% of all food allergies in the United States:

* Peanuts
* Soy
* Eggs
* Wheat
* Tree nuts
* Dairy 
* Fish and Shellfish

Monday, September 22, 2014

It's Apple Season - Dehydrate Some Apple Slices
They Make A Healthy Lunch Box Snack!

Dehydrated apple slices are easy to pack and eat.

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It's Apple Season
We picked our entire tree of Fuji apples and wanted to do something this year besides just making applesauce. (Check out my Sugar-Free Applesauce recipe.) So I pulled out my mandolin V-blade slicer (BIG MISTAKE) and started slicing and dehydrating apples.

Please Be Careful!!!
I'm usually very careful when I use sharp tools, like a vegetable slicer, but I was not using the guard for the first slice in order to get the apple to hold. Without realizing it, I sliced the bottom of my thumb - OUCH!!! I won't describe the rest, only to beg you never to use a mandolin without holding the vegetables and fruit with the guard. Better yet, throw out your mandolin and slice the apples with a knife.

If using a mandolin, ALWAYS hold the fruit and veggies
with the plastic guard.
I was scheduled for a manicure the next day
and could only have 9 nails polished.
Thankfully I still have a thumb!

Organic Apples
When making your own applesauce or dehydrated apple slices, always start with organic apples. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), apples top the list for containing the most pesticides. So if you don't have your own organically grown apple tree, make sure you purchase organic apples. 

Making Dehydrated Apple Slices
Wash and core the apples. No need to peel - Hooray!!

Place the apple slices on the non-stick sheets in your dehydrator (you can put them directly on the grating, but the grates get sticky and they are harder to wash than the non-stick sheets.

If you want "RAW" dehydrated apple slices, set the temp to 115 degrees F. Otherwise, set the temp at 135 degrees F. Dehydrate until the are dry and are no longer sticky (at least 12 hours.)

Turn the apple slices over and place directly on the grates. If you start out with the apples on the grates, you don't need to turn them.

I love my Excaliabur 5 tray dehydrator.

Continue to dehydrate the apple slices until they reach the desired texture. We like them crispy and leave them in the dehydrator for a day and a half. But if you like them pliable, you can take them out sooner. The time will vary with the thickness of the apples, the type of apples, the temperature of your dehydrator, and how crispy you want your slices.

When they reach the desired texture and dryness, shut off the dehydrator and let them cool.
Place them in a large freezer bag, seal and place in a dark, cool storage area. You can also refrigerate or freeze for longer storage times but I think out of site is out of mind. I tend to leave some on the counter and watch them disappear! They also make a nice gift for friends and neighbors.

A Great Snack
Did you ever pull out an apple in the middle of a meeting? I didn't think so. But these little jewels are easy and discrete to eat at work. And they make a great snack for the kids lunch boxes too!

But don't go overboard. It's a lot more filling to eat the entire apple than to eat a lot of dried fruit slices so just put "an apple's worth" of slices in the lunch box and enjoy!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Vegan Italian Pignoli Cookies
Almond Paste - Great For Gluten Free Baking

Pignoli cookies bring back flavors from my childhood.

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Cookies from my Childhood
If you were an Italian-American kid growing up in Brooklyn, I would venture to guess that you LOVE pignoli cookies. Every good Italian bakery in Brooklyn sold them. At the end of a big holiday meal, there would be fruit, nuts, and often a box of pignoli cookies that one of the aunts or uncles had picked up at a nearby bakery. I don't remember anyone in the family ever making these treats. Why would they bother when they were so readily available?  But sadly, since I moved from New York, I haven't found a bakery that sells them. Luckily, they are pretty easy to make. Who knew?

Gluten Free Baking
Many Italian cookies, like pignoli and amaretto cookies, are made with almond paste. It's the ingredient that gives these cookies their chewy texture and intense almond flavor. Almond paste is made from blanched almonds that have been mixed with sugar. For those of you avoiding gluten, almond paste is great for making yummy gluten-free desserts. It can be found in the baking section of your local grocery store. And since there is already sugar in the almond paste, there is no need to add much more (although I've seen recipes that call for quite a bit.) Another good reason for making them yourself!

A 7 ounce tube of gluten-free almond paste.

Pine Nuts - Buy Mediterranean
Four years ago I got a condition known as "Pine Mouth." This is where you get a bitter metallic taste in your mouth 12 to 48 hours after ingesting pine nuts. A lot of people I know have had the same experience. It can last for days or weeks and makes everything you eat taste like metal. Many link this to the flood of Chinese pine nuts that have hit the market. And, in fact, the nuts that caused this problem for me were from China. 

I have banned pine nuts from my diet for the past 4 years but I've decided to give them another chance, especially because I love them so much and simply adore pignoli cookies. This time, however, I will only eat pine nuts that are grown in Mediterranean countries such as Spain, Italy, and Portugal. They cost a lot more but if I can enjoy one of my favorite desserts and not get pine mouth, it's well worth it! (If anyone of you have experienced pine mouth from Mediterranean pine nuts, please let me know. So far I have not had any unpleasant reaction to these.)

Ingredients for pignoli cookies:
Cane sugar, almond paste, and Mediterranean pine nuts.

Silpat Baking Sheets
I love Silpat baking sheets, I won't make cookies without them. No need to grease the cookie sheet - the cookies will easily come right off of them. Look for Silpat baking sheets at your local culinary store or on Amazon. If you don't have these you can bake these cookies on parchment paper.

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Pignoli Cookies
Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 14 cookies]
Requires a food processor such as a Cuisinart and a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat baking sheet

1 t ground flaxseed 
1 tablespoon water
7 ounce tube almond paste
1/4 cup cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 cup Mediterranean pine nuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Make a flax egg white by mixing the ground flaxseed in 1 tablespoon of water. Beat with a fork until gooey and set aside. 

Slice the tube of almond paste into 1 inch slices and place in a food processor with an S-blade. 

Process until the slices are broken up. Mix the sugar and the baking soda together and add them to the almond paste. Process until the mixture looks like crumbs.

Add the flax egg and process until the mixture clumps together.

Form 14 little balls, about one scant tablespoon each, and shove each one into a bowl containing the pine nuts. You may have to gently wet your hands to get the balls a little sticky. Push the nuts into the top and bottom of each cookie until they stick. Flatten and form each one in the shape of a cookie.

 Gently place the cookies on the parchment or Silpat-lined cookie sheet.

Place the cookies in the preheated oven and bake until they spread out, get a little puffy and slightly browned, about 15 to 17 minutes. They will be very soft but will firm up as they cool.

Remove the cookies from the oven and let cool on the cookie sheet until they are firm enough to transfer to a wire rack, about 5 to 7 minutes. Cool on the rack and serve.

These will disappear in a flash so you might need to double the recipe.

Per cookie: 111 calories, 7 g total fat, 0.6 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 74 mg omega-3 and 2,411 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 2 g protein, 11 g carbohydrates, 1 g dietary fiber, and 8 mg sodium.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Creamy Garden Cucumber Soup - Serve Chilled
Raw Vegan, And Gluten Free

Raw almonds make this chilled cucumber soup creamy.

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Busy Week
Sorry it's taken me so long to post this month but we've been busy harvesting 3.7 tons of organic Pinot Noir grapes in our vineyard here in Sebastopol, California. Sudden hot weather caused the sugar in the grapes to quickly spike and we had to scramble to get the grapes harvested. The sugar level dictates the percent alcohol in the wine and since we like our Pinot to be around 14% alcohol or under, we pick our grapes when they are around 24% sugar (Brix) or less. 

Friends, family, and workers came to our rescue and we got it all done in three days. My brother and his wife happened to be visiting (thinking that they were here for a relaxing vacation) only to find themselves out in the field picking grapes. They enjoyed the experience and now have a story to tell back in Charleston, South Carolina.

Check out last year's post on how we make Pinot Noir.

My brother Peter, harvesting grapes.
My sister-in-law Dianne busy at work.

Back to Cucumber Soup
Before we roped Peter and Dianne into harvesting, we did some fun things. It was Sonoma Wine Country Weekend and we took them to a fabulous wine event at Fred MacMurry's Estate that featured 200 wineries and 60 local chefs. 

One of the chefs made a delicious chilled cucumber soup. Since it was creamy I assumed it was made with dairy. (I always have to ask since I'm allergic.) But to my surprise, the cucumbers were blended with almonds (my favorite source of vitamin E). I didn't get the recipe but I have attempted to recreate the dish, especially since my garden is packed with cucumbers right now. My version is a bit thicker and instead of drizzling olive oil over the soup, I use cold-pressed hemp oil since it has more omega-3. 

Cucumbers in my garden

                       *                             *                            *

Creamy Garden Cucumber Soup
Raw Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes about 2 1/4 cups - 4 small servings]
Requires a high-speed blender such as a Vitamix 

3 cups diced, peeled cucumbers with large seeds removed
1/4 cups raw almonds, soaked over night
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill plus some for garnish
1 1/4 teaspoon cold-pressed hemp oil

To prepare the cucumbers, peel and quarter lengthwise. If you have large seeds, remove them. Dice and measure 3 cups and place them in a high-speed blender.

Add the soaked almonds, lemon peel, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and dill and blend until smooth. If it's too thick, add a tablespoon of water or non-dairy milk and blend until mixed. Chill until ready to serve. 

To serve, place the soup in 4 small teacups or bowls and drizzle 1/4 teaspoon of hemp or olive oil over each bowl. Take a demitasse spoon or a toothpick and stir the oil into the soup. Garnish with a small piece of dill and serve.

Per serving: 77 calories, 6 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 170 mg omega-3 and 1,749 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 3 g protein, 5 g carbohydrates, 2 g dietary fiber, and 293 mg sodium.