Monday, October 26, 2009

Vita Mix; A Love Story About A Woman And Her Blender.

I never thought a blender could bring this much joy to my life. That is, until, about three years ago when my husband bought me a Vita-Mix for my birthday. Some of you may be thinking, a BLENDER? For you BIRTHDAY?

Yes. A blender for my birthday.

I use it pretty much every single day to make my morning smoothie, to puree soups, make sauces, cashew cream ...The list is endless (If you really want a longer list, go here.)

I strongly believe that having nice appliances in your kitchen makes for a much more enjoyable cooking experience. The same goes for a nice set of sharp knives. Have you ever tried to dice an onion with a dull knife? Not fun.

Anyway, back to the blender. It's easy to clean, is dishwasher safe and most importantly, it has enough horsepower to effectively grind avocado pits...At 250mph. Now that's a serious blender.

Does anyone else have any kitchen appliances that they can't live without? Share them in the comments!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Healing Thoughts

You can find inspiration in others, but the motivation to make that change can come only from within.

An important thought, especially when you're at a point in your life where change needs to be made, but taking that first step seems especially daunting.

I've been there. I remember sitting on the sofa, trying to figure out how I was going to get up . The joints in me knees were painful and swollen to the size of large grapefruits, my wrists and my hands were throbbing, my shoulders were not functioning, and I was stuck. At that moment I thought; "How am I going to live the rest of my life like this?"

And that was it, that was the breaking point. My inability to get off the sofa was the spark that motivated the change.

I wasn't about to give up on myself, and I didn't.

An important lesson learned: You have the power to take your life back. You have the ability to make the necessary changes in your life to live it how you want it to be lived. For me, rheumatoid arthritis was a bump in the road, but I didn't let it throw me off course. I acknowledged it, and through changes in my diet and exercise I was able to overcome it.

Ultimately what I want from this blog is to take my experience and help others find the positive inspiration that can motivate their change, provide some tried and true recipes, and hopefully get a few laughs. Remember: Laughter is a healer and we could all use a little more of it in our lives!


Monday, October 12, 2009

Say Hello to the Soup Floozie!

I'm a self-proclaimed soup floozie, and I'll say it proudly because...Well...I love soup. I walk the streets searching for the next great soup and once I find it, I tell it how much I love it, how nothing compares to it, and how it's the only soup for me...Until the next soup comes along, then I say how it's not the soup, it's me, things get awkward, we see each other every once in a while, but it's not the same, not like it was in the beginning...

I don't discriminate when it come to soup, I love creamy soups, broths, chilis, stews, chowders, bisques, hot, cold, lukewarm...I'm a equal opportunity soup lover.

The thing about soup is that it's easy to make, isn't fussy, and requires very little measuring. Plus, you can add pretty much anything to soup and it's going to taste good. It's also easy to get that down-home creamy taste and texture without adding the ingredients that clog your arteries, cause inflammation, and make you fat.

You may be asking yourself, how do you make creamy soup without cream? Well, sit back and let me tell you about the cashew, or more importantly, cashew cream because a) It's easy to make and b) acts as a healthy replacement for cream in your soups.

Cashews provide essential fatty acids, B vitamins, fiber, protein, potassium, iron, and zinc...That's right, they're good for you, and although they do contain a small percentage of saturated fat, it's a healthy fat. So, just don't go scarfing down an entire bowl of the little guys on your own and you'll be fine.

Here is a simple recipe for cashew cream that I snagged out of "Super Natural Cooking" by Heidi Swanson (GREAT book)

Cashew Cream
Makes about 2 cups.

1 1/2 cups raw cashews
1 1/2 cups water, plus more as needed
2 1/2 tsp nutritional yeast
1 1/2 tsp fine-grain sea salt
Squeeze of lemon juice

Soak the cashews in a small bowl of warm water for 20 or 30 minutes to soften them up, making a smoother, silkier cream. Drain and add the water, nutritional yeast and salt. Puree with a blender or food processor until smooth and of a cream-like consistency. (You may need to add additional water to achieve the right consistency.) Season with a squeeze of lemon juice, stir, taste, and add a bit of additional salt if needed.

If you don't believe me and want to see the awesomeness of the cashew for yourself, try this recipe from the February 2009 issue of VegNews Magazine...It'll make your toes curl.

Clam-free Chowdah!
Serves 4

2 Tbsp Earth Balance Vegan margarine
1/4 lb oyster mushrooms, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup raw cashews
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 1/2 cups cauliflower, cut into large pieces
1/4 tsp garlic, minced
3 bay leaves
1/2 tsp thyme, dried
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced
1/4 tsp natural smoke flavor
1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1 tsp fresh parsley, minced

In a skillet over medium-low heat, saute 1 Tbsp margarine and oyster mushrooms for 7 mintues, set aside.

In a blender, grind the cashews to a fine powder then add 1 cup veggie broth. Blend until completely smooth.

In a large stock pot over medium-high heat, add 1 Tbsp margarine, onion, cauliflower, and garlic. Saute for 5 minutes, then add bay leaves, thyme, white pepper, remaining veggie broth, cashew mixture and salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce to low heat and cook for 15 minutes. Remove bay leaves.

Using either an immersion blender or regular blender, blend until completely smooth. Add potatoes and cook over low heat for 40 minutes. Stir in the smoke flavor and add the mushrooms. Serve hot, garnished with sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper and fresh parsley.

Stay tuned for more ways to get your soup fix!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Big Bite of Nostalgia: Vegan Tater Tot Hotdish

WARNING: THIS RECIPE (as it is written, substitutions given) IS NOT GLUTEN FREE!

First of all, you may be asking yourself, why is she posting a non-gluten free recipe on a gluten free blog ? My answer is simply that sometimes I throw caution to the wind and have a little gluten, but it has to be for the right recipe (See UPDATE at the bottom). Incidentally, it would be gluten free if I could find an acceptable substitution for ground beef that doesn't contain TVP (textured vegetable protien.) With that being said it was either the cow or the TVP, and when it comes down to that, the TVP wins...Hands down.

(I suppose if you had the time you could take a few thawed gluten free veggie burgers, run them through the food processor and cross your fingers that the end result resembles ground beef...I'll give that a try next time and let you all know how that goes. Or, you could always substitute pinto beans as well.)

On to the recipe at hand. Being from the midwest, the "Land of the Hotdish" I grew up on this stuff. LOVED, L-O-V-E-D it. There's something comforting about hotdish, something indescribable. Sure, many mock the hotdish, but you know they're all closet caserole lovers deep inside.

The classic makings of a hotdish are simple; Just throw together whatever is in a can in your cupboard at the time, mix it with ground beef or turkey and top with something crunchy and then bake it in the oven for about an hour, and *Voila!

I came up with this vegan recipe for Tater Tot Hotdish on my own, with a little consultation from my mom (the hotdish queen) on the key ingredients. The sauce that replaces the cream of mushroom soup may look familiar. It's actually the "cheese sauce" from the infamous Baked Macaroni and Cheese. Interestingly enough, it tastes completely different in this recipe, very authentic, and very creamy.

So call your Grandma, have her bring over the lime green jello with the shreded carrots (you know, the kind that looks like your fish tank froze over?) and have your mom bring a pan of "bars" (pronounced "bahrs") and enjoy this recipe the way it was meant to be enjoyed...With family and friends!

Vegan Tater Tot Hotdish

1package Boca meatless crumbles (thawed) (NOT gluten free, but dairy free)
1 package baby bella's, sliced
1/2 red onion chopped
1 package frozen mixed veggies (thawed) (I used frozen peas, carrots, and corn)
1 package frozen tater tots

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Saute the onions for a few minutes until nearly translucent, then add the mushrooms and cook for an additional few minutes. Combine the mushrooms, onions, Boca crumbles, and mixed veggies in a large bowl and pour in the sauce from the following recipe. Combine well. Spread mixture into a 9 x 12 casserole dish and season with salt and pepper. Add the tater tots to the top until it is mostly covered. Bake for one hour or until the tots are crispy and the sauce begins to bubble.

2 Tbsp + 1/3 cup Earth Balance non-hydrogenated vegan margarine
2 Tbsp shallots, peeled and chopped
1 cup red or yellow potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup onion, peeled and chopped
1 cup water reserved from the cooked vegetables
1/4 cup raw cashews
2 tsp sea salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic, pressed
1/4 tsp dijon mustard
1 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne

To make the sauce:
In a saucepan add shallots, potatoes, carrots, onion, and water. Bring to a boil. Cover the pan and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the veggies are very soft.

3. In a blender, process the cashews, salt, garlic, 1/3 cup margarine, mustard, lemon juice, black pepper, and cayenne. Add softened veggies and 1 cup cooking water to the blender and process until perfectly smooth.

*Fancy French words not necessary when preparing, serving or eating hotdish.

I made this hotdish again and instead substituted pinto beans for the Boca crumbles, which in my opinion is just as good, and I didn't have to spend a week dealing with troublesome joints. Sometimes throwing caution to the wind just isn't worth it!