Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Stuffed Acorn Squash with Black Rice, Roasted Carrots, and Dried Cherries

With Thanksgiving quickly knocking at our door, it's important to maintain balance in our lives. We need to remember that "The Holiday's" are not an excuse to treat our bodies any different than we would on any given day throughout the year. With that being said, there are plenty of delicious recipes available to showcase a vegan diet, without giving up the seasonal flavors.

I wanted to post a recipe that I made last year, and plan on making again this year to bring to my parent's house. Stuffed acorn squash, a staple on an autumn dinner table, filled with hearty black rice, earthy carrots, sweet dried cherries, ginger, maple syrup and cinnamon will bring warmth and comfort to your holiday meal.

A nice accompaniment would be the "Autumn Mushroom Stew with Rosemary Mashed Potatoes" along with some Corn Bread Muffins and Miso -Glazed Green Beans and Mushrooms (which I also made last year) And for a vegan pumpkin pie recipe that is absolutely delish, go here.

Yummy food aside, and more importantly, take the time to count your blessings and spend it with the people you love. It's easy to get lost in what the season has become, but remember that these times are not about acquiring "things" but more about helping others, and being grateful for what you already have. There's a lot to say about living simply, because the greatest things in life are in fact, free.

Stuffed Acorn Squash with Black Rice, Roasted Carrots, and Dried Cherries.
Serves 8
These can be made one day ahead; cover (so the rice doesn't dry out) and reheat in a 350 degree oven.

Prep tip: If you'd like additional protein, add 8 oz extra-firm tofu, drained, dried, and cubed, on top of the carrot mixture before roasting (don't stir as it will stick to the pan)

4 acorn squashes
8 tsp canola oil, divided
1 tsp sea salt, divided
2 tsp ground coriander, divided
1/2 scant tsp ground nutmeg, divided
1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger
10 large sage leaves, chopped
3/4 cup coarsely chopped dried cherries
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp canola oil
3/4 cup finely diced onion
1 cup Chinese black rice
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

1. Preheat oven to 375. Cut squashes in half, lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Brush interiors with 4 tsp oil, then sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt, black pepper to taste, 1/2 tsp coriander, and scant 1/4 tsp nutmeg. Arrange halves on a baking sheet, cut-side down. Roast 40-50 minutes on the upper middle rack, until tender when pierced.
2. Combine remaining 4 tsps oil, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 1/2 tsps coriander, and 1/4 tsp nutmeg with carrots, pecans and ginger in an 8-inch baking dish; toss to combine. Roast at 375 for 30-40 minutes on the bottom middle rack, stirring every 10 minutes. When carrots are tender, stir in chopped sage, dried cherries, and maple syrup. Roast for an additional 10 minutes, then remove from oven.
3. While veggies are roasting, place a medium saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add 1 Tbsp canola oil. Add onion and saute for 2-3 minutes, until onion begins to soften. Stir in rice and cinnamon, then add broth. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil. reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
4. Combine rice with carrot mixture. Arrange squash halves, cut side up, on a serving platter; fill with rice mixture, pressing gently to secure.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Creamy Wild Rice Soup with Sweet Potato Croutons

Yeah, I know..."Again with the Soup?"

This time of year, I just can't help myself. There's nothing better than curling up with a nice bowl of soup on a cold autumn evening. Especially one that has comforting ingredients like wild rice, sweet potatoes, coconut milk all mixed in with a nice smooth sweet curry flavor. Yum.

This recipe came from Heidi Swanson's "Super Natural Cooking." If you click on the link, you'll notice that it will take you to "Google Books" where you can view the entire book online. Huh! Who woulda' thought?

I love this book because the photography is beautiful, the recipes are simple, and it is chalk full of information on superfoods and recipes for vegan substitutions like "Egg Free Mayonaise" and "Cashew Cream." With that being said, if you can add this one to your library, you won't regret the purchase.

Creamy Wild Rice Soup with Sweet Potato Croutons
Serves 4 to 6

2 Tbsp coconut oil
1 1/2 tsp red curry paste (I use 1 tsp green curry and 1/2 tsp red chili paste)
1 large glove garlic, finely chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 cup wild rice, rinsed
4 cups water
1 orange-fleshed sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
Fine grain sea salt
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 Tbsp natural cane sugar
1 Tbsp shoyu sauce (or gluten-free soy sauce, tamari)
1 (14-oz) can coconut milk
Squeeze of lime juice

Heat 1 Tbsp of the coconut oil in a heavy soup pot over medium-high heat, then add the curry paste (and chili paste if using), garlic, shallot, and onion and saute for 3 or 4 minutes, until the onion begins to soften. Make sure the curry paste is evenly distributed before moving on the the next step.

Stir in the wild rice and 3 sups of the water. Bring to a simmer, lower the heat a bit, and cook, covered, for about 40 mintues, or until the rice starts to soften, split and show it's fluffy insides. That being said, a surefire way to know when the rice is tender is to taste it.

Meanwhile, prepare the sweet potato croutons. Warm the remaining 1 Tbsp coconut oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, then add the cubed potatoes and a few pinches of salt. Toss to coat the potatoes, then cook a few minutes longer, until they start to get some color on the bottom. Give them another toss to brown the other side, and continue tossing every few minutes to get more color and crispiness. If the pan dries out, add a bit more oil. When the sweet potatoes are cooked throug and pleasantly crunchy, season to taste with salt, then scoop them out onto a paper towel.

When the rice is tender, stir in the turmeric, sugar, shoyu, coconut milk, the remaining 1 cup water, and 1 tsp salt. Stir, return to a simmer, and cool for another 5 minutes to meld the flavors. Remove from the heat and finish with a generous squeeze of lime juice. Season to taste.

When serving, ladle form the bottom of the pot to make sure each person gets plenty of rice, and top with a generous sprinkling of sweet potato croutons.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I am frequently asked questions by people regarding my diet, how I decided to make those changes, and how I stick with them so religiously. Interestingly enough, many of those questions come from people who although don't have RA, but have other issues that can be brought under control by a diet similar to my own.

What amazes me about this whole thing is how your body has the ability to heal itself when given the proper nutrition and care.

I received this question from a woman who was recently diagnosed with RA.

Hi Jenni,
Congrats on your success at changing your diet and getting your RA under control.
I got diagnosed this past summer so i haven't decided what to do with my diet. I am very interested in trying to make changes though. I was thinking of starting with going gluten free.
I would love to hear more about how you decided what foods to eliminate and how you've managed to stick with it. After all, the comfort foods are soooo easy to grab on days when ya feel bad.

Hi Laura!
It's kind of a long story, I have a blog centered around my story and the changes I have made, here is the link to "My Story"

http://thehealingplate.blogspot.com/2007/07/how-it-all- began.html

As far as starting to experiment with your own dietary changes, I suggest keeping a food journal. First, eliminate the most common "allergens" wheat, yeast, dairy, soy, eggs, as well as ALL processed foods and red meats (as they produce inflammation) and stay away from refined sugar.

Eat a completely whole foods diet including lots of [fresh] fruits, veggies, leafy greens, whole grains such as brown rice and quinoa (which is very high in protien) as well as beans, nuts (almonds and walnuts are great) and seeds. If you choose to continue to eat meat, eat lean meats such as fish and organic free-range chicken. You want to continue on this diet for at least a few weeks to get some effect of the changes.

Make sure to write down how you feel everyday and then if you want to start reintroducing some of these eliminated foods in your diet, introduce them one at a time (at least five or more days apart) and again write down how you feel on a daily basis.

The good thing about going gluten free these days is that there are OODLES of options available, much more so than when I started out 5 years ago. Also, reading your food labels is VERY important. Thankfully, over the past few years legislation has been passed requiring food companies to list these common allergens on their packaging, so you don't have to carry around a list of undecipherable words for "wheat."

Shop the periphery of the grocery store, that's where all the whole foods hang out. Avoid buying food that have more than five ingredients and make sure that those ingredients could be recognized by your great grandmother as actually being food. Stay far far away from diet soda or foods containing aspartame, that suff will kill ya!

Honestly, one of the most detrimental foods is dairy. There are a whole host of reasons why we shouldn't be eating (or drinking) the stuff, many of which goes way back to ancient chinese research. Simply put, we can't digest it and we're not meant to. Our society puts far too much emphasis on it's consumption and interestingly enough, not only are we the largest consumers of dairy, we also have the highest instance of osteoperosis. Coincidence?

Also, so you know, if you're thinking of getting tested to see if you are "allergic" to any of these foods, those tests are not always accurate. Just because you test out of an allergy doesn't mean you're not intolerant to it. Makes sense?

I know this all may seem a bit daunting at first, but for me it was worth every single bit of it. If you think about it, it's simply going back to the way we should be eating, and once you're on track you won't even think twice about any of it! In order to stay healthy you need to invest the time in yourself, and once you start doing so you will realize that it's time well spent.

One of my favorite books that I recommend reading is "Skinny Bitch" it's an easy read and it also answers some of the questions you may be having regarding why you shouldn't eat certain foods. I read it in one night, it's light, informative and entertaining. For a heavier read, check out The Blue Zone. The author travels the world to explore groups of people who live the longest and are the healthiest, his findings are interesting and support this very diet.

Please feel free to let me know if you have any more questions...I'd be happy to help!