Pepita-Parsley Pesto

As I may have mentioned before, I’ve never done a “detox” in the traditional sense of the word. That’s not to say, however, that I can’t go a little crazy when it comes to eating healthy. My crazy-healthy streaks– those where I really go all-out with the greens, juicing, low-carbing, etc. — are the closest to detox I get. That is, if you can call it “detox” when coffee is involved (probably not, right?) Last I checked, copious amounts of caffeine and cleanses didn’t mix.

My slight — ahem, massive — coffee addiction might explain why I tend to be overzealous in other areas of my diet. Perhaps I’m trying to compensate? Whatever the reason, I like to play games like “see how many different colored vegetables I can fit into one meal.” Or, “how many ‘cleansing’ ingredients can I fit into one dish?” Of course, such moments are interspersed with spurts of baking zeal and uninhibited tasting. Then there are those days where I’m tired, lazy, busy, out of groceries, or eating out a lot. Those days? My plates are less-than-colorful; my meals skewed toward the carb-loaded and vegetable-deprived.

As contradictory and schizophrenic as this may all sound, I reason that no one can be 100% perfect all the time. Which is why, even on my worst days, I’m still getting some fruits and vegetables, and why, even on my best, I don’t strive for absolute perfection (what is “perfection” in a diet, anyways?) Thus, my tendency to avoid cleanses, which seem to require super-human strength, willpower, and a complete abandonment of reality (I’m sorry, but I’m not one of those people who can carry on a normal work day subsisting on solely juice. If you are, more power to you!!).

So, after a long-winded explanation, you understand why this green glob — and the bed of fiborous spaghetti squash it sits upon — is one of my favorite and most often-prepared dishes. It’s my non-cleanse cleanse. A detoxifying dish without the “detox.” Parsley, with all its diuretic properties is a wonderful kidney cleanser. The higher-than-usual amount of lemon juice in this pesto provides a great tonic for the liver. Lemon juice is also said to be helpful for the skin. The b vitamins in the nutritional yeast provide essential vitamins and nutrients, especially for those of us following a vegan diet. Finally, pepitas (my secret ingredient) provide a healthy source of protein and fat. They are also said to help lower cholesterol. I like to add all of this to a heaping bed of low calorie, high-fiber (helps to “move things along,” so to speak…) spaghetti squash, which is one of my favorite foods to prepare.

Pepita-Parsley Pesto:

1 small bunch curly parsley

6 tablespoons raw pepitas

¼ cup nutritional yeast

2 tablespoons olive oil

¼ cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon water (more as needed)

½ teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste

Directions:

Puree all ingredients in food processor until smooth. Add water as needed for desired texture.

Share

Tahini-Carrot Soup

When I joined the ranks of the hundreds of thousands of unemployed law grads across the country, I had several expectations. I would, of course, be relentless in my job search. I would have time to work out several days a week, maybe even start a yoga routine. I would have time to test all the thousands of recipe ideas I wanted to test. I would be able to finally paint the bathroom, which had been stripped of its wallpaper well over two years ago (and which Gennaro once affectionately referrred to as “the crackhouse”). Once the bathroom was tackled, I could get started with the bedroom. And where would I start? The stain-ridden, wallpapered ceilings (yes, I said wallpapered ceilings…not to mention closets, shelves…)? The rest of the walls? The floor-to-ceiling wooden shades that are badly in need of a paint job themselves? Oh, and I could finish all my wedding thank-you notes. I could even volunteer somewhere — perhaps some pro bono work on the side?

In my mind, I was on course to becoming the most productive unemployed person that ever lived. But as you may have suspected, reality has robbed me of such lofty ambitions. The job search has yielded less-than-stellar prospects (is it possible to spend 4 hours a day searching every job site imaginable only to find maybe one entry-level attorney position?). The recipe-testing came with seemingly incessant kitchen cleaning and food shopping, which, of course, cut into my workout time. The thank-you notes are still not done. The bedroom? Hah, please…The bathroom was only just tackled last weekend. And there’s Woodley. He needs two long walks a day. Then there’s the weekly allergy shots (which I have been getting for 4 years now and somehow manage to continue on a weekly schedule. grrrrr), the daily errands and chores, the new health insurance, the joining of the bank accounts…all the little things I had somehow overlooked a few months back.

And no, I haven’t started volunteering anywhere, either. So when I found myself looking forward to a much needed vacation down to Miami to visit a friend this weekend, I couldn’t help but feel a bit ashamed. Do I really need a vacation from my “vacation”? And with that, I was also a bit distraught to realize that almost a week had passed since I made anything worth posting here. It’s been more like passable efforts, at best.

This all led me to my photo archives, where I found this carrot-tahini soup, and remembered how much I had enjoyed it months ago. So why was it never shared? Well, maybe it’s just me, but I sort of felt like I would be a fraud if I posted it — a recipe I copied almost exactly from one in the New York Times. Not that I wouldn’t, of course, give credit. And not that I don’t usually find inspiration from another recipe. And it’s not like sites I love — like Smitten Kitchen, for example — remake other people’s recipes all the time. But with this one, I didnt’ even try to change much of anything. And I had no step-by-step pictures like Smitten Kitchen, no compelling story for what this dish meant to me. Nothing new, really. Just a soup that I enjoyed. A lot.  

But isn’t there a place for this kind of sharing? A place for an endorsement of a great, naturally vegan and gluten-free meal? A place for a little “I substituted this and took out that and it was still very good”? Well, for this soup at least, I’ll make this place a place for all that. And by next week, hopefully I’ll have some good, original recipes perfected. Who knows, maybe I’ll even finish my thank-you notes. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

Carrot-Tahini Soup:

I made everything from the original recipe in the New York Times the same except: 1) I used a small, yellow onion instead of leeks, 2) I used cumin in place of the turmeric, and 3) I used raw tahini. I topped the soup with cilantro and some scallions and served it alongside some toasted, homemade focaccia, which I used in place of the pita chips.

Share

Carrot, Beet and Apple Slaw

I’ve been making a version of this slaw for as long as I’ve had my food processor. Between testing batches of cakes and biscuits, it’s nice having a go-to veggie dish to even things out a bit.

This is one of those recipes that I never make the same way twice. Sometimes I just shred carrots and beets and drizzle with tahini dressing. Other times, I add sunflower seeds and dried fruit. Since pomagranates are in season, I added some pomegranate seeds to the slaw I made for lunch the other day. The colors are very “fall,” no?

As for the unemployment thing? Well, I’m learning to make the best of it. For one thing, I get to spend all day with my little guy. That would be Woodley. He’s a snuggler, so if he’s not at my feet, he’s by my side during the day. He’s enjoying the revived attention he’s getting post-bar studying as well, as he literally had to resort to laying on my study guides and giving me puppy eyes just a few months ago, just for a belly rub.

So, here’s my no-recipe method for this slaw: Shred 1 very large or two small carrots, 1 raw beet, peeled, and a green apple, unpeeled, in food processor. Toss shredded beet, apple and carrot with some fresh chopped curly parsley. Add juice of 1 lemon, a drizzle of apple cider vinegar and olive oil. Sprinkle on a generous pinch of salt. Toss. Add anything else you wish and enjoy!

Share

Gluten-Free, Vegan Eggplant Parmesan

My love affair with eggplant Parmesan began years ago, back when I was a precociously adventurous eater. Not that eggplant Parmesan is necessarily adventurous. But when you’re a kid and claim eggplant to be one of your favorite foods while others your age cite hot dogs and pizza, you tend to earn the title over time.  Telling someone that your all-time favorite food is “squid with black bean sauce” when you’re in kindergarten doesn’t hurt, either.

I still find this dish at the top of my list of comfort foods. It’s creamy and gooey and rich and cheesy — all recognizable comfort food attributes. It took some time to figure out a way to make this dish gluten-free and vegan, however. So when I came up with this recipe a few weeks back, I was so excited that I made it several times, even though it turned out just fine after the first attempt.

This is a relatively easy dish to pull-off, as it lends itself nicely to liberties and variations. I could imagine some shaved zucchini or roasted red pepper making an appearance in here. There’s also the possibility of using various types of pasta sauces. I would recommend, however, a relatively light pasta sauce here, as the almonds tend to let out some oil as this dish bakes. An oily pasta sauce would make this dish a bit on the heavy side. And while this recipe could comfortably feed four people, don’t hesitate to make this if you’re only feeding one or two — you’ll find the flavors even more developed the next day.

Gluten-Free, Vegan Eggplant Parmesan:

I would recommend a chunkier pasta sauce here. If you use a thinner sauce, try adjusting the amount used so the end product is not too runny. Most importantly, use a sauce you would eat alone on pasta, as the sauce really makes a difference in the dish.

15 eggplant slices, between 1/4″  and 1/3″ thick (from 1 medium eggplant)

2 tablespoons flax seed meal

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup Bob’s Red Mill Almond Flour

1/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

3-4 teaspoons soy-free Earth Balance buttery spread, divided

1 cup jarred pasta sauce, divided

3/4 cup Daiya vegan mozzarella, divided

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a blender or immersion blender, add flax seed meal and water and blend until frothy. Pour mixture into a shallow dish.

3. In a separate shallow dish, mix together almond flour, nutritional yeast and salt. Individually dip eggplant slices into the flax-water mixture, turning to cover both sides. Transfer slices to the almond flour-nutritional yeast dish and press into the mixture, turning to coat both sides. Shake off any excess coating.

4. Heat 1 teaspoon buttery spread (or more as needed) over a non-stick skillet on medium-high until melted. Add eggplant slices — about 4 at a time — to the pan and fry on each side for 2-3 minutes, or until outsides are golden brown. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate. Repeat as necessary with remaining slices.

5. Layer a 1-qt. baking dish or 9″ cast iron skillet with 5 eggplant slices. Top slices with 1/3 cup sauce, then 1/4 cup cheese. Repeat 2x. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until pasta sauce is bubbly and eggplant is soft.

Share

Spaghetti Squash with Spinach-Basil Pesto

For years, it seems, I’ve heard people rave about spaghetti squash being a dieter’s dream — super low calorie, high in fiber, low carbs, and a great substitution for real spaghetti. And quite frankly, I thought those people were full of it. I imagined spaghetti squash to be a sad consolation prize for those who, for whatever reason, were depriving themselves of the real thing.

Then I tried it. The verdict? Suffice it to say, I spent a good portion of my day today on a spaghetti squash scavenger hunt, frantically digging through piles of squash at various locations across the city, like an addict trying to get my fix (I guess I’m not alone in my affinity for the stuff; it was sold out just about everywhere I went). I’m not sure what it is that I love so much. It certainly isn’t an exact substitute for spaghetti; it’s crunchy and somewhat bland on its own. Yet I’m hesitant to call it a vehicle for sauce, either, because it’s worthy of some recognition of its own. Maybe I like the texture, or the child-like joy I get from using my fork to pull out perfect little transluscent strands.

And yeah, so maybe it is a great vehicle for a really great sauce. I especially like it with a pesto sauce, because it’s great served either hot or cold. The pesto here is inspired by a raw recipe from the cookbook Alive in 5, which my Aunt Pam kindly let me hang onto after I expressed an interest in a banana-date smoothie recipe from the book. I like the idea of raw sunflower seeds in the pesto, as I often try to pack as many nutrients and health benefits into a recipe when I’m working around a very healthy ingredient (here, the squash). Plus, given that Jillian Michaels hasn’t graced the presence of my T.V. screen since back when I had something to get in shape for (my wedding), and that a little thing called patatas bravas was the uncontested third wheel throughout our honeymoon, it doesn’t hurt to make a meal that can claim all-around healthy benefits and few carbs.

Pesto:

2 cups packed spinach

1 cup packed basil

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons good olive oil

1-2 tablespoons water (as needed)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt (plus more to taste)

Directions:

Blend all ingredients in a high-powered blender until smooth. You may need to coax the ingredients a bit with a spoon if they’re being stubborn (I had to, as my blender is not the top-of-the-line). Toss pesto with cooked spaghetti squash until coated. Serve warm or refrigerate and serve cold. Taste for salt and add more to taste.

Squash:

1 spaghetti squash, stem removed, halved lengthwise, seeds and pulp scraped out

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Lay squash flat on a parchment-line baking sheet, flesh side down. Bake in preheated oven for 4o-45 minutes for softer squash, and 35-40 for a crunchier texture (I prefer the latter). Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes before using your fork to scrape out the spaghetti-like flesh.

Share

Walnut Beet Dip

This recipe was inspired by a recipe from Spain: A Culinary Road Trip, which Gennaro bought for me a few years ago after witnessing my sheer excitement every time Spain: On The Road Again (the PBS show with Mario Batali and Gwyneth Paltrow) was on T.V. In anticipation of a honeymoon in Barcelona, I’ve been re-exporing some of the book’s lovely recipes, many of which are simple and accessible, despite the fact that a big-time chef’s name appears on the cover.

I made this dip about a month ago and was instantly addicted. It’s the kind of dip that really makes any type of cracker or bread just a vehicle for the dip, which is rich and flavorful and, dare I say, somewhat healthy to boot (with omega-3 packed walnuts and vitamin-packed beets). I apologize for the rather imprecise measurement of the beets. I was originally not planning on sharing the recipe. But since I veered slightly from the original and enjoyed it so much, I thought I would pass this one on to all of you. I’m sure slight variations on the amount of beet used won’t change the fact that this is one great recipe. The original recipe also calls for water, in addition to much more olive oil that I used, making it more of a puree than a dip, as it is presented here. Feel free to add a bit of water or more olive oil as needed to reach desired consistency.

Walnut Beet Dip:
Adapted from Spain: A Culinary Road Trip

1 cup walnuts

1 1/2 large beets, boiled, peeled and cut into large chunks

2 tablespoons good olive oil

2 tablespoons sesame tahini (I used raw)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons curly parsley, minced

sea salt

Directions:

Puree walnuts in a food processor with a sharp blade until finely ground. Add beets, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and parsley and puree until combined. If the consistency is too thick, you may add a bit of water to thin it out. Add enough salt to taste, plus another spinkle of lemon juice or drizzle of olive oil if desired.

Share

Crushed Lentil Soup

Jillian Michaels has been kicking my butt. Every morning. I hear her voice as my alarm clock goes off, her signature “don’t phone this one in” line reverberating as I contemplate pressing snooze. I don’t; instead dragging myself out of bed, mentally preparing for what is sure to be another grueling workout ahead.

Of course, all this torture is self-inflicted. I’ve made up my mind to do at least a little something for myself this summer, given that the majority of my day these days are spent sitting behind a desk, studying, with a rare break to eat or walk Woodley. But I must say, I’ve become slightly addicted to Jillian’s workout DVDs. I now own all of them, after discovering — via exercise T.V. — that the full, 40 minute version of “Banish Fat, Boost your Metabolism” (they’ve since cut it down to a meager 25 minutes — not nearly as hard) was more challenging than any gym boot camp or personal training session I’ve ever done. But perhaps even more shocking was that I wasn’t bored while doing it, despite feeling like I might die. Despite having to break out my emergency-only “breathing machine” once (“emergency-only” usually meaning an asthma attack, which I may or may not have had during the workout). Despite sweating enough to wring out my shirt afterward. Despite all that, I actually find myself enjoying working out these days. In the comfort of my own home. With Jillian Michael’s no-nonsense attitude motivating me perhaps only half as much as her perfect abs staring back at me on my T.V. screen. Maybe that’s just because anything is less boring than studying for the bar exam…

So, what does any of this have to do with crushed lentil soup? Well, I realized that I don’t really want to be one of those people who kills themselves for an hour only to throw it away on a high-carb, high-fat meal afterward. Still, my appetite has been a bit more voracious these days, given my early-morning calorie expenditures. This soup was a quick and satisfying solution to my newfound problem.It’s  high in fiber. Low fat. Low carb. High protein. And not too heavy. It’s great with a salad and takes only a little more than a half hour to come together. This Middle Eastern take on red lentils is a nice change-of-pace from the traditional — and also very good — Indian Dahl.

Crushed Lentil Soup:

1 medium-sized sweet onion, finely diced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 cups split red lentils, rinsed and picked over

6 cups water

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

2 teaspoons sea salt

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)

pinch of cayenne pepper

parlsey or cilantro, chopped, for topping

Directions:

1. In a large soup pot or Dutch Oven, saute onion with olive oil over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, until transluscent.

2. Add lentils, water, cumin, coriander and salt. Stir. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, covered, for about 25-30 minutes, stirring occassionally.

3. Stir in lemon juice and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Remove from heat. Serve immediately, sprinkled with some freshly chopped parsley or cilantro.

Share

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Well, I’ve had my ice cream machine for a few months now and the novelty has yet to wear off. I’ve been making ice cream so much that I get antsy waiting for the bowl to re-freeze between batches. I’ve learned — and this info might be of use to others with a Cuisinart machine — that it takes over 24 hours for my bowl to freeze completely (even though the instructions say about 4-12 hours). That’s a whole day without making ice cream, which is quite the test to my patience (but probably for the best).

I know my posting has been a bit spotty lately. Trust me, I’ve been cooking, I just haven’t had much time to share my recipes. The transition from law school to the real world and wedding planning have taken on toll on my free time, which usually consists of posting here. But fear not, I have a lot of recipes in the arsenal that are waiting to be shared.

My blog posts also suffered a bit of a setback due to a broken computer. Not a broken computer as in low memory, slow performance, a damaged hard drive, or any of that. I mean, I literally opened it up one day and the screen just collapsed and parts started falling out. It had had enough, I guess. May I just add that it is not cheap to be technologically “with it” these days? A few months ago the screen on my phone shattered. A few hundred dollars later, I had a new phone and a new, more expensive plan. Same with the computer. I’m pretty sure they design these things to have a short shelf life. There must be some pre-programmed directions telling our electronic devices to break down after a certain period of time so that we have to go out and spend more money. Oh, well.

I’ve been on a mint kick lately. I just LOVE fresh mint. I’ve been putting it in my smoothies with frozen strawberries, Chocolate Greens Superfood Powder, soy or almond milk and a few drops of vanilla stevia. It’s so delicious — and a great energy boost! But the mint really makes it special. I’ve also been putting fresh mint into my salads. Stay tuned for a tabbouleh recipe with fresh mint this weekend or early next week. This mint chocolate chip ice cream recipe is made with agave, but the chocolate chips are actually made with the NuNaturals vanilla stevia in order to reduce some of the overall sugar. I’m usually try not to mix sweeteners in recipes (just one less ingredient to have to worry about), but here, I think the agave improves the texture and creaminess of the ice cream, and the stevia adds a nice hardness to the chocolate. I took a tip from Ricki Heller over at Diet, Dessert and Dogs and added some carob powder to the recipe to cut some of the bitterness of the stevia. You can always experiment with other sweeteners if you’d like.

Finally, I hope you all are enjoying the new site design. I tried to keep the general feel the same while making the interface a bit more user-friendly. I’m still working on some things (I am definitely not a coding aficionado, by any means) but I’m hoping you’re liking the look in the meantime.

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream:

1 13.5-oz. can light coconut milk

2 teaspoons potato starch

1/3 cup agave nectar

1/4 cup fresh mint, minced, tightly packed

Chocolate Chips:

1/4 cup coconut oil, liquified

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons unsweetened carob powder

1/2 teaspoon vanilla stevia

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, whish together coconut milk, agave and potato starch until starch is dissolved into mixture. Add in mint. Pour mixture into ice cream machine and turn on.

2. Meawhile, whisk together all ingredients for the chocolate chips until smooth. Set aside.

3. After ice cream has had about 10-15 minutes in the machine — or until the mixture has begun to freeze — slowly drizzle in the chocolate mixture. The coconut oil will harden the chocolate as it hits the cold ice cream, so it should break up into tiny little chips as it goes in. You may want to test with a small amount first just to make sure ice cream is cold enough.

4. After you’ve added the chocolate, continue to run machine until ice cream comes together to desired consistency. Serve.

Share

Black Bean Brownies

I’ve been working on perfecting a recipe for black bean brownies for about a week now. At first, I wasn’t even going to create a recipe, as Ricki Heller’s looked so good that I was just planning on making hers (sometimes I just want someone to take the guess work out of it for me, ok?). But when I went to make them, I realized that the recipe called for Baker’s chocolate, and all I had was cocoa powder. So I tried to see if I could compensate by changing around some other ingredients in the recipe. The first round of tweaking didn’t go so well (my fault, and nothing to do with the original recipe, as I had NO idea how to go about substituting cocoa powder for solid chocolate) but I saw potential. At that point I wanted to try and get it right, so I had to put Ricki’s recipe off for another day, and I tried again. A little closer that time, but just a little “wet.” The next time a bit dry. Then just right. The one problem was that they didn’t really seem to me like brownies. Gennaro certainly didn’t recognize them as brownies when he texted me one night (I was at class): “I really like those chocolate bar things in the fridge.” Whether or not they’re brownies or “chocolate bar things,” he liked them, which was a good sign.

This month, I am honored to be a part of 30 Days to a Food Revolution, a blogging event organized by Diane over at The W.H.O.L.E. Gang, which was inspired by Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. Now, Jamie Oliver has received some backlash for his show (in addition to the loads of support), which has struck me as a bit odd. I understand that it’s a network show and that cynicism is inevitable when the guy starting the revolution is rich, famous and good-looking. But with diabetes and heart disease on the rise and obesity a growing problem (and increasingly among our younger generations), I wonder why there is such resistance to making some changes.

At the same time, I understand that food, like religion and politics, is personal. People don’t want to be told what to eat or what they shouldn’t be eating. I get this. I also get that people have come to view eating healthfully as somewhat of an elitist thing. As a law student (soon to be graduated law student looking for a job as a lawyer…in a bad economy) I’m well aware of the painfully high prices of organic foods, fresh produce, and specialty ingredients. But I also think that the assumption that a “food revolution” necessitates  an all-organic Whole Foods-esque lifestyle somewhat misses the point. From what I gather, Jamie Oliver’s goal is to reconnect people with what they are putting in their bodies. And it’s nearly impossible to connect with something when it’s passed to you through the window at a drive-through, or thrown into the microwave for a few minutes before it’s hurriedly eaten in your car.

My great-grandmother worked in the Detroit auto factories for most of her life. She wasn’t rich by any means. But she cooked real food. Whole foods. Cucumbers and tomatoes from her garden. Chicken paprikash and noodles and cabbage and goulash and fresh crepes. Some of my greatest childhood memories were at her house, and they revolved around her food. I’m not advocating that we all morph into Alice Waters overnight here. I’m just saying: home-cooked meals and family dinners and fresh dinners don’t have to be — and shouldn’t be — a privilege. My great-grandmother could tell you that. That’s why I think it’s great that Diane is trying to make healthy, whole food recipes accessbile for those who are interested in making a change, but don’t know where to start. Today’s my guest post, and I did my best to contribute a recipe that could be made from scratch, but was still healthy and cheap.

But there is one thing that I AM going to force on all of you. Today also happens to be Oprah’s “No Phone Zone” day, which means to make your car a no phone zone: DON’T TEXT AND DRIVE. It’s stupid. Really. If you agree, you should sign the pledge. Anyone who knows me well knows that I cry at the drop of the hat. Literally, you could probably drop your hat and I might cry about it. But all kidding aside, I REALLY don’t want to have to cry over any more Oprah episodes about people who’ve lost their lives because of texting and driving. THANK YOU.

Ok, back to the fun stuff: the brownies. You have to let these cool substantially before cutting into them. Better yet, cool them in the refrigerator a bit. Considering these brownies are grain-free, vegan, high in fiber, very low in sugar and a fairly decent source of protein and good fats, they’re also pretty darn good. But like I said, they’re not your typical brownie. A bit fudgey and gooey on the inside, but not very sweet, these treats are best referred to as “healthy brownie bars” so as not to confuse anyone looking for a classic brownie here. But for those looking for a much healthier option, these are a great alternative to the classic.

Brownie Bars:
Inspired by a recipe from Diet, Dessert and Dogs

1 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup canned pumpkin puree

1/2 cup coconut oil (liquified first)

1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1/4 cup brewed coffee

1/2 cup flax seed meal

1 teaspoon vanilla stevia*

2 tablespoons agave nectar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder**

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup unsweetened carob powder

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a blender, on high speed, blend all ingredients except cocoa powder and carob. You may need to coax the mixture a bit with a spoon, but it will eventually get to a smooth consistency, which is where you want it. Pour mixture into a large mixing bowl and fold in cocoa powder and carob powder until incorporated.

3. Pour batter into a pre-greased 9×9 inch baking dish or brownie pan. Spread with a spatula or spoon to smooth. Bake in preheated oven for about 40 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. I would suggest waiting at least a few hours for brownies to cool before slicing and, better yet, letting chill in the refrigerator first.

* I used NuNaturals

** traditional baking powder is not technically grain-free, but for a grain-free baking powder recipe, check out Kelly’s over at the Spunky Coconut.

Share

Zucchini Pasta

Unless you have the knife skills of a Top Chef Master, you will probably have to get a vegetable spiralizer for this recipe. I got the idea to do zucchini “noodles” from Lexie’s Kitchen, one of my favoite blogs. Of course, this meant adding yet another contraption to our jam-packed tiny kitchen, but it was worth it. I did make sure to get the smallest spiralizer I could find, even though it happened to be the most expensive (ugh). I have to say, though, that so far it’s been worth the purchase, as I’ve made this zucchini pasta every day for a week, in different variations. I’d say something like this is essential for raw, grain-free, and low carb diets.  

I have to confess, I’m not a huge zucchini lover. There’s something about its sliminess when it’s overcooked or its starchiness when it’s slightly under or raw. So I wasn’t expecting to actually enjoy raw zucchini pasta, but I figured it was something I could force down every once in awhile when I was craving pasta. You know, for the sake of my health. And my waistline. And my anti-candida diet maintenance — something I haven’t always been diligent about, though I know I should be. But I was pleasantly surprised — shocked, really — to actually enjoy zucchini this way. Which is nice, since zucchini is rich in potassium, which can lower blood pressure and decrease anxiety. You probably won’t fool yourself into thinking it’s actually pasta, but I have to admit, I came close. At the very least, I fooled myself into thinking that my zucchini wasn’t zucchini. The “parmesan cheese” might have helped.

Which brings me to another topic: vegan parmesan cheese. I have a confession. I use it now (this is a recent development in my life). I actually, um, kind of like it. Foodies everywhere should have me blacklisted from the club. At any rate, I’ll own it. If you don’t have a problem with yeast, I’ve heard great things about parma!, which is soy-free and kosher. Since I’m starting to feel like nutritional yeast doesn’t always agree with me, I’ve been using Galaxy vegan topping, which I broke down and bought after three years of doing that thing where I picked it up and put it back on the shelf, not ready to commit to it yet. Of course, if you’re not dairy-free or vegan, you could always go ahead and buy regular parmesan cheese.

Zucchini Pasta Toss:

3 zucchini, stems topped off, put through a spiralizer (I used the medium-sized spiral blade)

1/3 cup kalamata olives, drained and patted dry, halved

1/3 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained, patted dry and julienned (if tomatoes are not packed in oil, you can julienne regular sun-dried tomatoes and add some oil to the final dish — about a teaspoon, maybe)

3/4 cup fresh vine tomatoes, chopped, or quartered grape tomatoes

1/4 cup parmesan or parmesan substitute

1/3 cup flat-leaf parsely, finely chopped

salt to taste

Directions:

Toss all ingredients in a bowl. Add salt to taste and maybe a little extra drizzle of oil if needed.

Share