Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Fire Roasted Tomato Bisque with Lacinato Kale and Ezekiel Croutons

I am a Pinterest nerd. While perusing Pinterest last weekend, I came across a recipe for Rustic Tomato Rice Kale Stew.  After drooling over the pictures and reading the ingredients, I quickly determined that I liked the jest of the recipe, I was just craving something more creamy...And without peas, because to be perfectly honest, I'm not a fan of peas.  But that's the fun part of cooking!  You can take a recipe and make it your own by adding different ingredients and spices.  Unlike baking, cooking isn't fussy; it's all about exploring flavors and experimenting with new recipes. Sometimes you flop, sometimes you hit a home run-And thankfully, this recipe was a home run.

The fire roasted tomatoes, chili powder, garlic and cayenne pepper give this bisque bold flavors with a nice kick while the lacinato kale, carrots, leeks, cashew cream, and Ezekiel bread croutons make this a hearty dish worthy of the title "comfort food."  

Lacinato Kale

The cashew cream allows this dish to be reminiscent of the most dreamy bisque without the nightmare of the cholesterol and calories in your traditional heavy cream and roux bisque. This is just another example of how you don't have to give up your favorite flavors or foods when you make healthy changes to your diet. 

Speaking of healthy, for those not familiar with lacinato kale (also called Tuscan kale or dinosaur kale), you may recognize it as part of Italian dishes such as minestrone and robillita.  The great part about this type of kale is its not only nutritious (it contains loads of vitamins A, K and C, as well as a healthy amount of calcium and iron) it also retains it's firm texture when cooked allowing it to be a hearty component of any dish that's lucky enough to include this amazing leafy green. 

The Ezekiel Croutons that I included are basically just Ezekiel bread English muffins that I sliced in half, topped with a sprinkle of shredded Daiya "mozzarella" and baked at 375 for about 10 minutes and finished with 2 minutes under the broiler. If you don't have any Daiya, you could also coat the bread with olive oil rubbed garlic and fry in a pan until crispy.  I use Ezekiel bread because it is really the only type of bread I don't react to.  It is made of sprouted grains so it is easier to digest than your conventional wheat-based bread, and it is also super nutritious as it is a complete protein and contains 18 amino acids including the 9 essential amino acids . 

As we wind down the winter season, keep your friends and family happy with this belly-warming crowd-pleaser.  Let me know what you think in the comments!

Eat Healthy, Stay Happy!

Fire-Roasted Tomato Bisque with Lacinato Kale
Serves 4

28oz can fire roasted tomatoes-pureed in a blender until smooth. 
3 cups vegetable broth
1 cup cashew cream (see below)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 large red onion-diced
1 large carrot-peeled and sliced
1 leek-sliced white and partial green
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 heaping Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
dash cayenne pepper. 

In a large soup pot, saute the onion, carrot and leek in the olive oil over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another 3 minutes or until the onion is translucent.  
Add the vegetable broth and pureed tomatoes to the sauteed vegetables along with the spices and stir until well mixed.  Bring to a boil and simmer on low for 15 minutes.  
Add the cashew cream and season with salt (about 1.5 tsp) and pepper to taste.  Continue to simmer on low for 10-12 minutes, or until heated through.  

Ladle into bowls and top with Ezekiel bread croutons.  

Cashew Cream:
1 cup raw cashews
1 cup water
1Tbsp nutritional yeast
1tsp sea salt
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1cup raw cashews

Add the cashews and water to a blender.  Let soak for 20-30 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Skinny on Juicing

Juicing; It's not just for feisty men in blue jumpsuits. So what's the hype?  I've been juicing for years, and there is rarely a day that goes by where I'm not drinking some sort of green concoction first thing in the morning.  I juice simply because it is super nutritious, gives me energy, and is a great start to my day. Some say juicing allows your body to digest the enzymes and minerals found in our fruits and vegetables more easily. It's also an easy way to benefit from consuming a wide variety of fruits and veggies in a relatively short period of time.

So why not just buy the bottled stuff available at your grocery store and call it a day? Although these drinks are fine in moderation, they are also pasteurized which means they are heated to kill bacteria which also kills the natural enzymes and healthy elements of the juice itself.  Many of the store-bought juices also contain unwanted ingredients such as added sugars and preservatives. Juicing eliminates these processes and unnecessary ingredients while giving you the freshest juice possible, right in your own home.

  I am often asked about juicing, and the conversations initially start with prospective juicers asking if I have any "good recipes."  For me, the fun part of juicing is running a bunch of fruits and vegetables through my juicer and coming up with new blends, but for those of you who are not quite ready to be so daring, here are a few tips and a couple recipes to get you started.

"Hot Toddy"

1). Buy organic. (I list this as number one because it's the most important.) First of all, any fruit or vegetable that you don't peel should be organic.  And don't kid yourself, washing and rinsing non-organic fruit (although helpful), doesn't get rid of the pesticides or herbicides that have been sprayed on the fruit or vegetable.

2). Choosing your juicer: There are a few different types of juicers.  The first, and least expensive is a centrifugal juicer.  This type of juicer grinds and strains the fruit at high speeds-Some say this type of juicer is less efficient because the heat generated from the high speed can essentially decrease the amount of enzymes in the finished juice. I had a centrifugal juicer that I used for nearly 3 years until I upgraded to a slow juicer.  I gave it to my sister and it still works great.
The second, is a masticating juicer which "chews" the food...You most often see masticating juicers used for things like wheat grass.
And last, but certainly not cheap least, is a triturating or "slow" juicer.  This type of juicer is generally more expensive, but it is also more efficient as it presses the produce for maximum juice that allegedly contains more nutrients because of the process.
Bottom line, you don't have to spend an arm and a leg on your first juicer. Buy what you can afford and know you made a good decision as they all essentially do the same thing.

3). Experiment! As I mentioned before, creating new juice concoctions is half the fun, so experiment with your juicer! I usually add more vegetables than fruit because for me, the whole point is to incorporate as many green veggies as possible.  But the good thing is, it's totally up to you...The sky's the limit!

Eat Healthy, Stay Happy!

The Green Ginger:
Serves 2
4-6 large kale leaves
1 large handful of spinach
1 cucumber
2 inch piece of ginger
1 apple

Run ingredients through your juicer, mix well and divide between two glasses.

The Virgin Mary
Serves 2
2 ripe tomatoes
2 cups fresh spinach
2 ribs celery
2 large carrots
2 limes
1 cucumber

Line the rim of your glass with celery salt, garnish with a celery stalk and add a few drops of Tabasco or cayenne for an extra kick!

Hot Toddy
Serves 1
2 lemons
2 inch piece of ginger

Juice the lemons and ginger.  Add the juice to a large mug and fill the reminder with hot water, a tsp of honey and a dash of cayenne pepper-It'll clear your sinuses and warm you up on a cool day.

*On a side note, if you're in to documentaries, Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead is a documentary about a man named Joe Cross who was unhealthy, overweight, and suffering from a debilitating autoimmune disease. Like me, Joe decided to take his health into his own hands and researched diet as a viable treatment option to achieve a balanced, more healthy well-being. The documentary is an inspiring tale of healing and how he was able to help others become more healthy through his own journey.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Homemade Almond Milk

When I first saw a recipe for homemade almond milk I thought "UGH! That seems really labor intensive."  But that's only because I didn't allow myself to get past the "soak almonds for 4 hours" part of the recipe, which is silly, because it's only soaking almonds in a bowl...It's not like it instructed me to "soak almonds in a bowl while resting it on your feet as you stand on your head reciting text from War and Peace in your best Sean Connery voice for 4 hours straight."  Seriously.  Talk about over reacting.

Anyway, I'm glad I finally gave it a try and I'm really glad I did because you will never find me buying the store-bought stuff again. Not only is it super easy to make, it's fresh and is also more flavorful and void of some of the funky ingredients/preservatives found in the store-bought milk.

Almond milk is great in cereals, smoothies, hot coco, and is an acceptable replacement for other milks in cooking and baking. I like to flavor my almond milk with a hint of vanilla, but if you're feeling particularily adventurous, you can spruce it up with cinnamon, or even make it chocolate by adding raw coco powder and upping the maple syrup for the corresponding 

All you need to create your own delicious almond milk (besides the ingredients of course) is a high speed blender, a nut milk filter bag (my husband hates it when I talk about my nut bag-But I do it just to bug him, naturally), and a container in which to store your milk.

Eat Healthy Stay Happy!

Almond Milk
1cup raw almonds-Soaked for 4 hours
4 cups filtered water
1Tbsp maple syrup
pinch of sea salt
1/2 tsp natural vanilla extract

Combine almonds and water in a high speed blender, blending on high for about 2 minutes.  Pour the contents of the blender into a nut milk filter bag over a large bowl (or cheesecloth) and squeeze all the remaining water out of the bag.  (You can reserve the pulp for baking, or for smoothies)
Rinse out your blender, pour the filtered milk back into the blender adding the remaining ingredients.  Blend on low until mixed.
Pour your finished almond milk into a glass container.  Best when chilled-Will keep in the refrigerator for 5 days.