Monday, July 31, 2006

Ode to Watermelon's a slight obsession. I could eat watermelon ALL DAY LONG. I buy at least 2 at a time in the summer because I can go through one a day! Here are some fun facts about watermelon:

* Watermelon is an ideal health food because it doesn't contain any fat or
cholesterol, is high in fiber and vitamins A & C and is a good source of potassium.
*Watermelon contains higher levels of lycopene than any other fresh fruit or vegetable.
* Watermelon's official name is Citrullus lanatus of the botanical family Curcurbitacae and it is a vegetable. It is related to cucumbers, pumpkins and squash.
* The first recorded watermelon harvest occurred nearly 5,000 years ago in Egypt.
* A watermelon was once thrown at Roman Governor Demosthenes during a political debate. Placing the watermelon upon his head, he thanked the thrower for providing him with a helmet to wear as he fought Philip of Macedonia.
* Early explorers used watermelons as canteens.
* The word "watermelon" first appeared in the English dictionary in 1615.
* Watermelon is grown in over 96 countries worldwide.
* In China and Japan watermelon is a popular gift to bring a host.
* In Israel and Egypt, the sweet taste of watermelon is often paired with the salty taste of feta cheese.
* In 1990, Bill Carson, of Arrington, Tennessee, grew the largest watermelon at 262 pounds that is still on the record books according to the 1998 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records.
* In 1999 over 4 billion pounds of watermelon were produced in the United States.
* Over 1,200 varieties of watermelon are grown worldwide.
* Every part of a watermelon is edible, even the seeds and rinds.

And believe it or not, there is actually a National Watermelon Promotion Board.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Homemade Pizza Night

Yummy! Whole wheat crust topped with olive oil, fresh garlic, fresh basil leaves, heirloom tomatoes, feta and italian cheeses. I made the crust in the bread machine. It was perfectly crispy on the bottom and soft throughout.

Whole Wheat Crust
1 cup water, room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

This made enough for 2 crusts.

Black-eyed Pea and Quinoa Croquettes with Mushroom Sauce

Quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah") is a wonderfully perfect little "supergrain". It's a complete protein, so it's great for vegetarians (and everyone else for that matter). Bella loves it plain.

Here is a recipe from another one of my favorite cookbooks, "Vegan with a Vengeance" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. This recipe is somewhat time consuming...but everything is from scratch, so that's expected. Even if you don't make the croquettes, the mushroom sauce is so delicious alone and would work great over pasta. You could get a little crazy and use shitake or portabella mushrooms as well. This dish is extemely filling and has a hearty flavor. Enjoy!

Black-eyed Pea and Quinoa Croquettes with Mushroom Sauce
1 1/2 cups cooked black-eyed peas, drained, or 1 can, drained and rinsed
1 T olive oil
1 T soy sauce (I use tamari)
1 cup cooked quinoa, at room temperature (how to cook quinoa)
1/2 t dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 t paprika

For the bread crumb coating:
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1/8 t sea salt
Few dashes of black pepper
1/2 t finely grated lemon zest
2 t olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, blend the black-eyed peas with the olive oil and soy sauce until just blended. Or use your hands to mush it for a truly messy experience. Add the quinoa and spices and combine the mixture. You should be able to mold them into balls that readily stick together.

In a small bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the breading. Spray a baking pan with a little oil. Form the croquette s into walnut-sized balls. Gentlly roll the balls between your palms 3-4 times, then flatten out the ends so that the croquettes resemble marshmallows. Coat each ball with the bread crumbs and place on the baking sheet. When all the croquettes have been formed, spray lightly with oil. Bake for 40 minutes, turning once after 20 minutes.

Mushroom Sauce:

3 cups veggie broth
2 T arrowroot powder
1 T olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 t dried thyme
1 t salt
Few dashed of black pepper
1/2 cup white cooking wine
2 T soy sauce
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup plain soy milk

In a small bowl, whisk the broth and arrowroot powder until dissolved. Set aside.

In a medium sauce pan, saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms, thyme, salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the white wine and turn the heat up to high to bring to a boil for 3 minutes. Add the soy sauce and the broth/arrowroot mixture. Bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the nutritional yeast and whist until dissolved. Add the soy milk and whisk for another minute or so. Let cool for a few minutes before serving.

Serve this by putting the extra quinoa on the center of the plate, then put 4-5 croquettes on the quinoa and then add a nice helping of the mushroom sauce around the edges of the plate. Don't pour sauce directly on the croquettes, as they will get too mushy.


Collards make great wraps. You can use them just like you would use a tortilla, pita, etc. (but so much healthier!). They have a very mild flavor and are very tasty. My favorite thing to wrap them around is: hummus, cucumbers, tomatoes, sprounts, avocados...and a little vegenaise and mustard. A little tip...use your thumb to press down on the vein and flatten it out before you roll it.

Go Green!

CSA Goodness on July 24

Another lovely CSA basket. Here is what was included this week:

Beans: Filet Beans (Maxibel)
Beets: Blankoma - white, Chioggia - red and white striped, and Golden - yellow
Cucumber: Suyo Long
Leeks - King Richard
Summer Squash: Sebring - yellow, and Eight Ball - round and green
Tomatoes: Dr. Wyche's Yellow (large golden), Italian Heirloom, Juliet (red cherry), and White Bounty (all heirloom except Juliet)

Good stuff. Last night we made Tomato Basil Pasta with fresh basil, the Italian Heirloom tomato, fresh garlic, onion, and whole wheat pasta. Yummmmm. Today, I ate half of the cucumber. It was so delicious. My parents have an "egg share" and get a dozen "just laid" eggs every week. I stole 2 eggs from their box for Bella. They were so cute...and green.

Earth Happy To-Go

We've been working on reducing our footprint on earth and using more non-disposable items. Today, I received my To-Go Ware set! I am so excited about is so durable and fabulous. Here is a little more about it.

Bella helped me open it and once she figured out what it was, she immediately exclaimed,

"I will eat with everybody!" and "I'm cooking!"

I'm planning on using it for picnics, eating in the car, and also for take-out. For take-out, it will be a little more time consuming because I think I will need to go in and explain to them what I want..."rice in this, green curry in this...". Now I just need to get another so we can have enough for our whole little family!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Thai Goodness

This is green curry with tofu from Cool Basil in Des Moines. It's a local favorite around here...if you're in town, don't miss it! If I'm having a bad day, green curry can make it better. If I'm having a great day, green curry will top it off. If I'm hungry, green curry hits the spot. If I'm not hungry, it doesn't matter...I can't turn down green curry. It's so perfect in every way. I crave it.

I sometimes go to their "sister restaurant", Thai Flavors (same owners). They are both great...but have different atmospheres. Cool Basil is a little fancier and they don't have fresh spring favorite. Kristin and I had some when she was in town.

We budget money each month specifically for Cool Basil. Yes, I love it that much. There are several other Thai restaurants in town, but we haven't gone (Pho, The King and I, and Nut Pob). Maybe I need to branch out...but hey, when you find something good, why mess it up?

Whenever we are traveling, I make a point to search out the local Thai restaurant.

Omaha, NE: Thai Spice and Thai Kitchen (best pad thai)
Ames, IA: The Spice (best service)
Iowa City, IA: Thai Spice (community activists)
Fargo, ND: Thai Orchid (surprisingly delicious)
Apple Valley, MN: Taste of Thailand (amazing spring rolls)
Bloomington, MN: Ketsana's Thai Restaurant (right off I-494, easy take out)
Kansas City, MO: Thai Place (great atmoshere)
Boulder, CO: Know Thai (fast service...more like Thai fast food)

Please let me know your favorites too! Get out and support your local Thai restaurant TODAY!

Delightful Banana Nut Muffins

This is my most requested recipe. They are AMAZINGLY wonderful, moist, and vegan! They are delicious with hot tea.

Delightful Banana Nut Muffins
Cookbook: The Garden of Vegan
By Sarah Kramer and Tanya Barnard

1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
½ cup dry sweetener (I like rapadura or turbinado)
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
½ t salt
¾ cup ground flaxseed (or oat bran)
½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
2 bananas, mashed
1/3 cup olive oil
1 t vanilla extract
2/3 cup soy, rice, or almond milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sweetener, baking powder, baking soda, salt, flax or oat bran, and walnuts. In a small bowl, combine the bananas, oil, vanilla and soy milk. Pour the liquid ingredients with the dry and mix together gently until “just mixed”. Spoon into a lightly oiled muffin pan and bake for 15-20 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

Balsamic Vinegarette

During the week in the summer, this is my typical lunch. A big yummy salad. Someday I would love to have my own garden and grow all of this myself. This particular salad consisted of:

*Romaine hearts
*Summer squash
*Flax oil

Most of the time I keep the dressing simple. I just splash a little olive oil, balsamic and raw agave nectar on it and it's good to go. When I'm feeling more ambitious, I whip up some vinegarette. My absoulute favorite dressing of all time is this one:

Balsamic Vinegarette
Living Cuisine: The Art and Spirit of Raw Foods
Renee Underkoffler

6 T extra virgin olive oil
3 T balsamic vinegar
1 T apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 T maple syrup or raw honey
1 T nama shoyu
1 T white miso
1-2 cloves galic
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 t oregano
Sun-dried sea salt to taste

In a blender, blend all ingredients until smooth. Store in a glass jar in refrigerator. Keeps for 3-4 days. To re-use, add a little water and shake.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Buying food

Every Tuesday is like Christmas morning. Tuesday evenings we drive down to pick up our CSA box. What the heck is a CSA? Check out this link and find your own while you're at it. We paid a lump sum of money to Jill and Sean at Blue Gate Farm to buy a farm share, and they give us yummy organic goodness each week to eat. The photo above is this week's take (minus the fruit in the bowls). There is NOTHING like food that was just harvested. If you've never experienced "just picked" green beans, you're so missing out.

I also shop at New City Market, a small (and I mean SMALL) market just a mile from my house. I love it there. They know me. They talk to me. The listen to me. And they care about the issues. This week, I was shopping and noticed that they were putting out a new brand of tofu to replace the White Wave tofu. I told them that I was happy they were doing that because White Wave is owned by a big nasty corporation and I would rather support small farmers/producers. They "get it".

I LOVE grocery shopping. I try really hard to buy everything on my list at New City, but I ended up going to Hy-Vee to get a few extra things. Of course, whenever I go to Hy-Vee, I remember why I love New City so much. Here is a little comparison:

New City
*Cute and quaint
*Great relaxing music playing
*Friendly and knowledgeable staff
*Awesome bulk section

*Huge, bright, and loud
*I don't remember if there was music, I was too busy being annoyed by the huge bright loudness.
*My checker had lost her voice, and sounded like something out of Nightmare on Elm Street. I couldn't make out a word she said.
*I feel like the only one there who knows that white bread is bad for you.

New City just has "my kind of people"...and Hy-Vee does not (most of the time). I have a really bad habit of looking down the checkout aisles as I leave and thinking to myself...."oh my goodness, they aren't really going to EAT THAT are they?!" I feel a deep need to grab them and tell them about genetically modified food, partially hydrogenated oils, dangers of pesticides....ack!! So in order to prevent myself from judging others...I should just stay at New City.

The Farmer's Market is possibly my favorite activity of the summer months. I don't buy a lot of food there (especially now that we have the CSA share)...but I just love going and talking to the growers and finding out who is truly not using chemicals, etc. I have a new favorite...Blue Gate has a booth there and they have this AMAZING herbed lemonaide. I am craving it right now. I usually buy some cucumbers, tomatoes, and flowers. Other than that, it's mostly just people (and dog) watching and music listening.

If I can't find something organic, I buy local, if I can't buy local, I buy the closest to home that I can. Why? There is a great blog about a couple who only bought food that was produced within a 100 mile radius of their home. Check it out. I'm certainly not perfect in this area, but I'm working at it.

Just be MINDFUL and deliberate about your food purchases. That's what matters. Check out my other blog for more thoughts on buying local.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

My kitchen

My kitchen. I spend A LOT of time in here. Preparing food is an relaxing, enjoyable thing for me. I love feeling the different textures in my hands. I love starting with raw ingredients and creating a wonderful final product. You won't find a microwave in my kitchen. I'm not about doing things fast (plus they aren't good for you). I enjoy slow food. I don't purchase a lot of processed food (occasionally chips, cereal, crackers, and condiments). I strive to have only organic food in the house. I would say that right now, I have about 90% organic.

Here is what is currently in my fridge:
  • Kiwi
  • Strawberries
  • Spinach
  • Grapes
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Cucumbers
  • Summer squash
  • 8-ball zucchini
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Dried figs and apples
  • Cashews, walnuts, and almonds
  • Garlic
  • Broccoli
  • Watermelon
  • Eggs from a local farm
  • Mango
  • Sesame tahini
  • Almond butter
  • Strawberries
  • Mushrooms
  • Bean sprouts
  • Red curry paste
  • Lemon juice
  • Worshestershire sauce
  • Vegenaise
  • Brita water pitcher
  • Ketchup and mustard
  • Maple syrup
  • Flax oil
  • Flax seeds
  • Avocados
  • Green beans
  • Swiss chard
  • Almond milk
  • Lime juice
  • Yeast
  • Sprouted garbanzo beans
  • Brussel sprouts
In my freezer:
  • 7 bags of fruit for smoothies
  • Edamames
  • Bread crumbs
  • Bananas
  • Ice
On my counter:
  • Oranges
  • Lemons
  • Tomatoes
  • Pears
  • Bananas
  • Mangos
In my cupboards:
  • Agave nectar
  • Celtic sea salt
  • Honey (local farm)
  • Baking supplies and spices
  • Bulk dried beans and legumes (navy beans, red lentils, split peas, garbanzo beans, quinoa)
  • Veggie broth
  • Tamari
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Rapadura whole cane sugar
  • Larabars
  • Untoasted nori sheets
  • Unsweetened coconut flakes
  • Various whole grain flours
  • Carob chips
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Molasses
  • White cooking wine
  • Olive oil
  • Popcorn
  • Blue chips
  • Pretzels
  • Flax plus cereal
  • Brown rice cakes
  • 10 lb bag of brown basmati rice
  • Balsamic vinegar

For the last week or so, I have been back on primarily raw foods. Normally, there would be at least one block of tofu in there. I love opening my fridge and seeing a rainbow of colors and textures. If my fridge is colorful and clean, I am a happy mama.

I love food.

Yes, it's true. I love food. Those of you who know me personally will agree that I can get downright obsessive about it. This blog will be a place for me to "talk food", post recipes and photos, etc. Here are few fun facts about me and food:
  • I've ALWAYS loved food. I was the girl who would go back for a third helping in the lunch line...every day. Yum.
  • I grew up in a very health conscious family, but we definitely don't agree on what "healthy foods" are anymore.
  • I started eating a vegetarain diet in September 2004. At home, I eat almost 100% vegan (no animal products). When I am out, I am a little more relaxed.
  • I ate a 100% raw food diet for 2 months in the summer of 2005. It was fabulous. And expensive. And hard to maintain. But yum.
  • I love Thai food. Enough said.
That's enough fun for one post. Now...onto my kitchen!