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Enter the Lentil

The versatility of the lentil is well, infinite if you ask me. I have seen lentils in hot and cold dishes, as side or main courses and even smooshed like a hummus…I thought it was time for me to get a bit creative and go sweet and sour for something new.

This Lentil-Pear salad is great served cold with celery sticks (my go-to meal during my recent girl’s weekend) as well as over a green salad or baked yam and even with your favorite baked chips. I found the sweet and sour flavors worked well to give me that fresh and light summer taste that I needed while hanging at the beach ūüôā

While I am currently working on the intricacies of two other lentil recipes, I wanted to get this one to you all asap for your summer-time enjoyment.

Lentil-Pear Salad

1 medium Pear, chopped into small pieces

1 large Red Bell Pepper, chopped into small pieces

2 Tbsp Tahini

1 Tbsp Maple Syrup 

1 Tbsp White Balsamic Vinegar

 

Juice of one Lime

 

2 cups cooked Lentils (I used green)

Himalayan Sea Salt to taste

1 Tbsp chopped Cilantro *optional*

Mix all ingredients together. Serve chilled.

~Mexican Home Fries~

Oh yes…this is a new favorite in my house!

Since my mom and I began the Vegan lifestyle almost two weeks ago I have been avidly working to create simple yet tasty masterpieces. Keeping in mind, the perfectionist in me has NO compassion for those kitchen mishaps aka recipes that say one thing and deliver another, I find myself just making things up along the way or putting two recipes together and modifying it five times to get what I want. This recipe was created in one of those times.

~A bit of background~In my family I have one prevailing cultural influence: Mexican. My mom’s dad came to the states from Guadalajara and worked to help his brothers, sisters and mom come here as well. That being said, my mom and I both grew up with a great deal of beans, rice and tortillas as dietary staples in our diet. In more recent times we had removed them with the “carbs are evil” mentality but have now returned as, without soy, we need the beans and rice for protein sources!~

I return to these roots now to introduce comforting flavors into a sea of seemingly unfamiliar food combinations… keeping the palate happy is the key to dietary lifestyle success.

Welcome, Mexican Home Fries!

So I have never been one to attach a nationality to a food as it seems so cliche but in this case it perfectly describes a food I have been eating since I was a child only Vegified! (aka without the eggs and cheese) We used to eat the meat version of this dish in a tortilla made with white flour and topped with lots of cheese and various meats including chorizo and machaca.

The other day my mom’s bestie was over for breakfast. Being that he is not a Vegan, I heated up a salmon patty from the freezer to serve him with my home fries. On the other burners I steamed some potatoes and decided I¬†would take the old American idea of home fries with¬†onions and bell peppers¬†and pair it with black beans, cilantro, a dash of cayenne and Tapatio.

OH MAN!!! It’s like a fiesta for your mouth :9¬†

If I would have had some Serrano’s on hand I would have loaded it up with those too but I was out…next time for sure!

This girl LOVESSSSSSSSSSSS her spice. Guess that’s why my rave name is SPICE? lol

After I finished preparing this tasty treat I served up some to my mom’s bestie with his salmon patty and my homemade guacamole and he loved it! While he would normally eat until he was full, he felt satisfied and quite content with my little meal. That’s a plus. I may have planted a seed for what could be a newcomer to the Vegan way of eating!

My mom and I loved this so much that I made it again and we even eat it cold during the day over a bed of spinach so anything goes here. It is definitely great with homemade guac if you have it.

Mexican Home Fries

1/2 large Brown Onion, chopped

1/2 Orange Bell Pepper, chopped

2 medium Red Potatoes, pre-cooked, steamed or left over from night before, chopped into cubes

1 cup cooked Black Beans, drained

1 Tbsp Avocado or Rice Bran Oil

1/3-1/2 cup chopped Cilantro

Himalayan Sea Salt to taste

Heat pan first then add oil. Add onions and coat with oil. When slightly translucent add potatoes and bell peppers. Turn heat down to medium to avoid over caramelization of onions. When potatoes begin to develop a light browning color, add beans. When beans are heated through, remove from stove and finish with cilantro and salt. 

*If you can stand the heat like I can, add a dash of cayenne powder and/or your favorite hot sauce. I prefer Tapatio and Cholula.

MARATHON DAY!!! And no, not the running kind…

If you know anything about me, you know I hate to run.¬†It’s just not my thing…too repetitious for my ADHD brain to take.

The one thing I do enjoy is a kitchen marathon! Last Thursday was just that.

Knowing that I had school and work over the weekend I was faced with the all-out challenge of preparing foods for three days so I didn’t have to cook at all until Monday. YIKES!! What was I thinking?!?! LOL

I started a 20 quart pot, just purchased last week, of stock on the stove using four days worth of veggie pulp from juicing which turned out to be a minor issue when it came time to strain but hey, my glass if half full so I am more excited about having the larger pot than I am challenged with the bitch of a time to strain it out.

Almost immediately my stock was half used as I prepared lentil-brown rice patties and double potato-leek soup…In over four hours of simmer time for the stock to reduce and an hour of prep and cook time for each of these items, the question would come from most beginning cooks:

“Why not just use the box or can stock?”

To which I would add…

Flavor and quality can not be substituted…period.

~In culinary school I had an instructor who could taste the love we put into our food. He would immediately say “That is sexy!” and we would know that he approved. When we were mentally absent in the food preparation he would scrunch up his face and ask “Where is the love” then send us to re-do it.~

Last week as I watched the time pass in the kitchen I kept thinking about my homework that had not been done and how my laundry needed to be changed over but my heart was so happy that I felt no desire to be anywhere else.

Taking an inventory of items on hand I found pineapple, mint, cilantro and purple cabbage. Knowing how my mom is typically not a fan of slaws due to the mayo content I found it to be a fun challenge to create a fresh tasting cabbage slaw with a whole lot of love. I also pulled out a pound of haricot verts, aka french green beans, and a pound of asparagus to create some random concoction that turned into a citrusy-sweet fresh salad.

Today I am going to share with you the recipe I created for the pineapple-cabbage slaw as the green bean asparagus salad did not have enough flavor and I want to work on that one a bit…food is truly my friend so I treat it with great respect!

Flavors in this salad rock!! Mom and I had this for breakfast today with a whole grain muffin and were quite pleased.

Purple Cabbage Slaw with Pineapple Dressing

1/2 head of Purple Cabbage, shredded

2 cups chopped Pineapple, 1/2 in cubes for salad

1 cup chopped Pineapple, for use in dressing

7 fresh Mint Leaves, chiffonade

1/4 cup fresh Cilantro, chopped

1 Tbsp Avocado Oil

pinch Himalayan Pink Salt, to taste

Toss together cabbage and 2 cups pineapple in bowl. In food processor or with a hand mixer, puree remaining ingredients until smooth. Add to previous mixture and set aside in fridge for 2 hours or overnight to allow flavors to mesh and cabbage to slightly soften.

Beans with a Tropical Twist

Day four of my GF Vegan adventures and mom is slightly panicking about where the protein is coming from. You see, for years we have both been under the impression that protein should be the number one food item coming from live sources being legs, wings or fins…beans fell under the category of a carb and carbs were to be kept at a minimum.

For almost a decade it seems I have fallen into the high-protein, low-carb methodology for losing body fat. As a trainer it’s the standard in dieting for competition though times and dietary science are changing rapidly so I’ve seen everything from no salt to no carbs to no fruit to only fruit. The possibilities are now endless!

Many years ago my mom was diagnosed with Hypoglycemia and her go-to foods have always been a can of tuna, a piece of chicken, eggs or cheese. The day I told her to stop eating chicken was like watching an adult take away a child’s favorite toy~

“But what will I eat when I am in a hurry and need food?!?!”¬†

“Find something else…”¬†

The first few days were the worst but she managed to adapt and found alternate choices.

That was just a quick solution I used to help her eliminate the puffy belly syndrome that came with menopause which in fact was her only symptom due to the impeccable diet and vitamin regimen she has maintained throughout the years. It was a great help and one that I found helped me as well during competition. No need to worry about that anymore!

So now we seem to have a minor dilemma on our hands: where does the protein come from and are we getting enough?

I find myself now daily consuming mass amounts of nuts, beans, seeds, legumes and whole grains such as brown rice and quinoa as well as a variety of colors in produce, fresh juices and nothing processed. My energy has been through the roof and my waist line has trimmed down about an inch in just four days so trust me, this question no longer crosses my mind!

Over the weekend I had collected three days worth of pulp from daily juicing and used it to make a fresh veggie stock with the addition of a couple of onions. I took this stock and cooked a large pot of red and black beans for various¬†experiments¬†in my lab…uh…I mean kitchen.

The science of food is definitely one that intrigues me.  >;-)

This morning as I drank my juice before our morning walk I took a mental inventory of the items I had on hand and came up with beans, pineapple, mint, cilantro…the makings for a killer tropical bean salad!! So here goes-

 Tropical Bean Salad

2 cups of Plain Beans (I have red and black here)

1 cup chopped fresh Pineapple

3/4 cup chopped Multi-Colored Bell Peppers (I use ONLY red, yellow, and orange)

1/4 cup finely chopped Red Onion

2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar

2 tsp Avocado Oil

1 cup chopped fresh Mint and Cilantro

Toss ingredients together and serve with warm corn tortillas or over a bed of romaine.

Three Bean Salad Makeover

Back in February of this year my mom and I took a four day trip to a local farm. We became a part of the community with chores, farm work and kitchen duties.

I’d say it was definitely a life altering experience!

 

~~This is the School House where we danced and sang daily!~~

 

Morning Star Ranch is one of the twelve tribes, a biblical reference, heavily rooted in traditions of the bible, both old and new testament. I was truly like stepping back in time.

The children are home-schooled in an on-site school house that also transforms into a common area for their evening prayer gatherings. As a community they begin each day in prayer and song, eat all meals together and, before dinner, join together to sing and dance with prayer.

We were blessed to have had the chance to be a part of such an amazing experience and plan on returning soon!

 

While prepping food for the Sabbath festival we met with some visitors from the Canada tribe in the kitchen. They showed us how to make pickled beets and three bean salad which were current favorites on thier farm. Though I have never been one to eat either of those two items I am not one to shun the opportunity for a new flavor experience!

Being that the diet on the farm is vegetarian, they consume one weekly fish meal, some eggs, dairy is fresh daily from the farm and they make their own yogurt, I had the chance to see nutrient dense food in action. My only downfall: dairy causes major allergy symptoms for me and I was puffy and bloated from all the tasty freshly baked bread they served! But hey, we had a blast so it didn’t really matter that mom and I gained about 5-8 pounds in four days.

In future postings I will be sharing my versions of the foods I enjoyed on the farm but without the use of dairy and gluten…

 

~~Rotating crops is essential to organic farming. This is an example of one way they planted a crop to recharge the soil with proper nutrients free from chemical alteration.~~

 

As I have enjoyed this new journey of GF Vegan eating I find that my memory takes me back to times like this where I have experienced tasty vegan foods that I would not normally eat. Somehow a memory of a great meal stays with you forever, right?

So as I have been challenged to use more beans as a protein source I decided I would make my own version of this three bean salad using more color in ingredients and apple cider vinegar. When I told my mom what I was making she cringed her face in that funny way that kids do when you try to make them eat overcooked brussel sprouts. It was actually kind of cute!

Our last day at the farm-

 

~~Our last day at the farm. We had just finished planting seeds for squash  :)~~

 

I told her to give me a chance and try it my way…she liked it. Her major issue with those types of salads is that she hates dressings, well the typical dressings anyway. For instance, mayo for her exists only to moisturize the tuna from a can in the tiniest amount!

 

If you have been following along in my journey for the last few days, you will notice my recipes make about 4-6 servings. I do this so that I am not prepping one meal at a time!

While I love being in the kitchen, I still have actual work to do. LOL

Three Bean Salad Makeover

1 pound Haricot Verts (I use these as they are tender and less pungent in flavor)

1/4 finely chopped Red Onion

2 cups of cooked Plain Beans, (I used black and red as I had them on hand)**

3/4 cup chopped Yellow Bell Pepper

1/2 Avocado, chopped

1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar

2 tsp Rice Wine Vinegar

1 tsp Avocado Oil

2 large dashes of Hot Sauce (I used Tapatio in this batch)

Combine all ingredients together and enjoy! Store unused portion in fridge.

**I make my beans fresh as canned food is not purchased in my home. To make beans flavorful without mass amounts of salt, make a fresh sodium-free veggie stock from the leftover pulp of daily juicing and cook the beans in it. This way, nothing goes to waste.

A Sweet Find!! GF Whole-Grain Vegan Muffins

When I was in culinary school my chef instructors used to tell me that my hopes of making good tasting healthy food were irrational, ridiculous and obscure. Of course they said it in the kindest, nicest way! O_o

Reality was: fat is flavor and there is no real subsitute for sugar or salt. And, it’s true. There is nothing artificial that can ever replace any of these so why even try? What I did learn though was how to create textures and flavors so big and bold that I needed no “substitution”…until I discovered a need for gluten-free!

I mean really, how in the world would I create just the right consistency, the proper inconsistent crumb, the delicate balance of texture, body and melt-in-your-mouth goodness without gluten?!?!

Actually it boiled down to just not having done the research to find a proper solution for this challenge. In my hunt over the last few days of GF vegan recipes ideas I stumbled upon a killer blog which is extremely popular and beautifully written! I heard about the Gluten-Free Girl a while back but was so focused on the idea that carbs are the devil I never took the time to read.

Gluten-Free Girl and The Chef is a name fitting for a superhero team, and when it comes to baking without gluten this loving couple certainly are hero’s!

In my search for a gluten-free flour mix that would use ingredients I had on hand I found many people using gums and various other ingredients that I haven’t heard mention of since culinary school. Items the average person would spend large sums on, would use only once then pack away in the depths of the pantry only to be discovered when they get ready to move. Not the case with this super hero match-up.\!

In this article¬†not only do these hero’s show us how to create our own whole-grain flour mixture that is versatile and gluten-free, they provide a simple, delectable muffin recipe to use it that is practically fool-proof!

For my experiments in the flour mix I used a combo of quinoa flour, almond meal, and corn starch. In place of the eggs in the muffin recipe I used 1 Tbsp of ground chia seeds and 3 Tbsp of hot water. I also chose to substitute maple syrup for the brown sugar which worked out quite well. Their recipe calls for 1tsp of chia but due to the extra moisture content from the maple I figured the extra body was needed.

TAH DAH!!! Gluten-free, soy-free, VEGAN and OH so easy…Thanks to our superhero’s Gluten-Free Girl and The Chef for saving the day ūüėÄ

Rainbow Salad Too Good To Not Post!

Many years ago when I was still working professionally in the kitchens I worked with a medical wellness center to develop menus for their patients. The menus were featured at each of the restaurants on site at the resort where the center was located so patients could follow the program during their stay.

While I have never been one for the Western approach to medicine, I can say that I had a great appreciation for the phytonutrient focus of their program and still use the concept of “as many colors on the plate as possible” in order to balance out my daily nutrition. Here is just one of many examples.

This salad is one of my random melanges…well, that’s kinda fancy talk. It’s more like “I threw everything in it that I could find to make it look like a rainbow” salad. And it is fabulous!!! It makes a big portion but stores and travels well if you keep the dressing aside to toss at serving time.

Rainbow Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing

1 Head Romaine Lettuce, chopped

1 cup of any combination of Red, Yellow and Orange Bell Peppers, chopped in 1″ pieces

1 cup Blueberries

4 sheets Nori, broken up or sliced into 1″ squares(optional)

1/2 Avocado

1/3 cup Apple Cider Vinegar

1 Tbsp Avocado Oil

pinch salt, to taste

Combine lettuce, peppers, berries and nori. In a blender combine avocado, vinegar, oil and salt. (*If you like a less tart dressing, cut back on the vinegar) Toss dressing with salad a little at a time until your greens are evenly coated.