Lemon Cake

15 08 2012

This dish is a dance that took 12 months to create.  The foundation was simple:  Make a cake.  The rhythm was more challenging:

No animal products… no eggs, butter, dairy.

No refined sugars… no honey, agave, stevia.

No oils… not olive, not coconut, not avocado.

Only whole wheat flour.

And make it taste good.

After 12 months of practicing the steps, this is my dance.

Lemon Cake

Serves 8

2 tablespoons flax meal

½  cup dates, soaked in warm water

1 tablespoons dried lavender buds

½ cup raw cashew butter, no-salt-added

1 cup non-dairy milk

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon turmeric

1/8 teaspoon salt (optional)

1 lemon, zest and juice

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 350.

To make flax eggs:  Combine flax meal with 6 tablespoons warm water.  Whisk together and let sit 5 minutes, until mixture is gelatinous and slimy, like eggs.

To combine wet ingredients:  Remove dates from soaking liquid.  Place in a blender or high-speed food processor with ½ cup of the soaking liquid.  Puree until well-blended and smooth.  Add dried lavender, cashew butter, non-dairy milk, and vanilla.  Puree until smooth.

To make cupcakes:  Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, turmeric, and salt in a large bowl.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry.  Add the lemon zest and juice and vinegar.  Stir well to combine.  Line an 8” round cake pan with parchment (or use a 12-cupcake silicon baking mold).  Pour the cake batter into the pan and spread evenly.  Bake 20-25 minutes for regular cake (10 to 15 minutes for cupcakes).  The cake will be done when it is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Let fully cool before frosting.

Lemon Frosting

Makes 1 cup

1 cup raw cashew butter, or 1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight and drained

8 dates, pitted and soaked in warm water

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric

To prepare the Lemon Frosting:  Place the cashew butter (or soaked cashews), dates, vanilla, and ¼ cup warm water in a high-speed blender or food processor.  Pulse the mixture several times, and then blend until the ingredients are thick, smooth, and creamy.  If needed add 1-tablespoon at a time of water to the blender until the desired consistency is achieved.  Cream can be use immediately or may be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.    

Freezes beautifully.





Fear Not Carbs

3 07 2012

Recent tidbits in the media have reiterated the strengths of eating a Plant-centric diet.
Check out this fun video featuring some of our favorite diet guru.  Dr. Atkins is on there, as well as the writer of the Paleo Solution and some other low-carb heavy hitters:

Low-Carb vs Plant-Based

I’m usually not one to judge by someone’s personal appearance, but I highly doubt that ripped Cross Fit junkies would be motivated by the Paleo grandfather, Loren Cordain.
Beyond carbs, though, what is most important is eating whole foods.  So many times we think of “carbs” as the refined foods that have added sugars and fats.  We think of processed breads, cookies, crackers, pastries, doughnuts, and fries.  None of these are whole foods.  They have been stripped of fiber, protein, and nutrients and fortified with fats, oils, and flavorings to seem like food.  These are food imposters.

Whole carbs are plants.  They are whole grains (rice, oats, quinoa, corn).  They are potatoes (loaded with fiber, nutrients, and even protein and fat).  They are beans and legumes.  They are fruits.  They are complex, which means the body breaks them down slowly so that it can absorb all of their goodness without spiking blood sugar levels or raising insulin.

Even Women’s Health spent some time to quiet some of the myths of meatless eating:

5 Vegetarian Myths

The coolest thing I like on this list is that a Plant-Based diet is often more diverse then a meat-inclusive diet.  I think back to my chicken days.  The same chicken, 4 different ways, week after week.  Now, I eat all colors and sizes of grains.  I’m cooking beans I never knew existed.  I’m tasting different varieties of dark greens, potatoes, fruits, vegetables, spices, and more.  And if I do eat chicken?  Well, it tastes the same as it always did — boring.

Good luck, Plant-friendly eaters.  Please keep me posted on the progress.  May the plants be with you!





Purple Sticky Rice Pudding

22 06 2012

This addictive dish works for both breakfast or dessert.  With natural sweetness from bananas and the rich flavor of vanilla bean, you can eat till the purple rice runs dry.

Serves 6

2 cups short grain purple sticky rice (if unavailable, substitute with short grain brown rice or steel cut oats)

2 cups blueberries

2 bananas

2 vanilla beans, seeds and pods (see how to do it here)

4 cups water

Combine all ingredients in a large pot.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low.  Stir vigorously to release the starches in the rice.  Cook until rice is tender, about 30 to 40 minutes.  Stir every 10 minutes or so to release more of the starches.  If mixture becomes to dry, simply add more water.

Garnish with diced mangos or apricots.





Strawberry Seduction

20 06 2012

You look up.  She catches your eye from across the room.  In a sea of browns and greens, her seductive red lures you in.  The laws of attraction elicit a deep breath as you inhale her sweet aroma.  Her glowing charm glints like the girl next door.  Her fragile skin hints at precious innocence.

All you want to do is grab her, pick her up, and take a big, juicy bite.

She is strawberry.

 

Let her radiance inspire you.  Fantasies of chocolate-dipped desserts, colorful breakfast bowls, and simple afternoons licking your fingers run through your mind.  Share company with her friends Blue, Black, and Rasp.  Let her meet your buds Almond, Arugula, and Ginger.

She’s not in it for the long-haul, little more than a summer fling.  But she’s good for every last, juicy drop.

You can find her at optimal beauty at places like:

Seedling Fruit (at Chicago’s Green City Market)

Whole Foods Market (all over the world)





Berry Oatmeal in a Jar

19 06 2012

Who has time for breakfast?  Make a full supply of these Sunday night for Breakfast-on-the-go all week.  Or, do like me, and chow on these for a post-workout refuel.

Makes 6 jars

3  cups oats (thick-rolled have a nice chewiness)

3 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1/2 tablespoon grated nutmeg

3 cups berries, any variety, let your nose and eyes choose

6 mason jars (holds at least 2 cups each)

Clean out jars.  Open lids.  Place 1/2 cup oats in each jar.  Combine the cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a small bowl, then even disperse among the jars (about 1 tablespoon in each jar).  If you have Pumpkin Pie spice mix on hand, this will also work.  Evenly disperse the berries among the jars.  Frozen berries or cherries also work.  Add enough water to each of the jars to cover the oats and come almost to the lip of the jar, about 1 1/2 cups.  Screw the lids on the jars, and refrigerate.

To enjoy: Simply screw the lid off the jar, microwave for a minute, stir, then another 30 seconds.  Enjoy warm.

The longer the oats soak in the water, the softer they’ll get.  Feel free to add in chopped, toasted nuts or fresh vanilla seeds for extra flavor.





Duo Talent: Rainbow Chard

11 06 2012

Duo Talents are hard to miss.

Duo Talents catch your attention with a notable first impression.  They perk your ears with a clever joke.  They challenge your thinking with a poignant question.  They have incredible shining eyes, a bright smile, and glowing confidence.

And then, they get better.

Beyond that first impression, lies another layer.  It’s the richness of self-motivation, the audacity to take risks, and the warmth of listening to your concerns.

The Duo Talent has two sides to entice.  They have a vibrant, crisp intro to attract.  Then they have a textured, soulful depth to keep you interested.

Rainbow chard is a duo talent.  It draws you in with bright, seductive stalks.  It keeps your interest with luxurious green leaves.  In one beautiful bundle, you get a two-for-one.  You can chop the stalks for braising, soups, sauces, or slaw.  The leaves offer layers for fluffy salads or wilted sides.

By enjoying both talents of this vegetable, you savor the many talents it brings to the table.  Just don’t let the other mustard greens get jealous.





Lower on the Chain

6 06 2012

To produce one pound of US steak (less than 1,000 calories of food), 45,000 calories of fossil fuels are required. 70 percent of the antibiotics we make are used on our livestock. And while Africa starves, half of the food we grow in this country goes to feed our livestock.

There was a time when meat cost more than vegetables. Chickens were reserved for special Sunday dinners, and, even then, every part of the bird found its way into giblet gravy and leftover soup. Now, these birds come in perfectly-portioned, uniformly-sized pounded breasts that cook in ten minutes. As Americans, we spend a smaller portion of our family budget on food then any other developed country. This is probably why we’re okay with the genetically modified wheat and under-tested pesticides that are banned in the European Union: It’s cheaper.

A challenge to eat healthy and sustainably is a challenge to change the way we look at food. Take the meat off. Switch the plate around so that vegetables and complex carbohydrates are the foundation while meat is the rare treat. Eat whole foods. Eat more plants. You’ll still get plenty of protein and fat, but probably in a form that is friendlier to your waistline and your arteries.

Other cultures have been doing this for centuries. Use them for inspiration. Mexico has its rice and beans. India has its red lentils and curried dal. Even our Native Americans shared corn and bean succotash.

Here we still have our grand images of the cowboy lassoing tonight’s dinner in a heroic display of the hunter feeding his family a hearty meal. This is an idyllic image of the past, though. Our current image is the truth of claustrophobic factory farms filled with sick, mutated animals. Our image for the future is our choice, a choice we make three times a day, plus snacks. It doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. It just means a little extra attention and one simple rule: Eat lower on the food chain.

For more information, check out these worthy reads:

Michael Pollan’s An Omnivore’s Dilemma

Northwest Earth Institute’s Menu for the Future