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Tips & Tricks {Household}

18 Apr

Because they’ve been helpful to me, I wanted to share a couple of household tips I’ve seen on Twitter:

America’s Test Kitchen is an amazing organization that runs the ATK TV show, Cooks Illustrated magazine (no ads!), a lot LOT of cookbooks, and much more. They’ve re-tweeted this tip a few times since I’ve followed them, but I think that’s purely because it’s that useful. I hadn’t realized people microwaved their lemons in the first place, but I do see the genius behind a simple technique that maximizes the juice you can get from the lemon.

Bonus: Choose your lemons (and limes) by their skin–smooth is key. And most citrus fruits should feel heavier than they look… this works for me when it comes to picking out tangerines, oranges, etc.

From the Pioneer Woman (oh Ree…) whom I adore even as she’s exploded in popularity recently… I recently started to air/hang-dry more of our laundry, particularly my cotton sweaters/tops (to prevent shrinkage) and a lot of our “colors.” I didn’t really have a problem with wrinkling but when I saw this tip from the Pioneer Woman, I thought it was genius! I’ve used it on khakis/chinos and jeans and it works for us.

Hope these help you and your household! Do you already do or use either of these tips?

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Homemade Almond Milk & Almond Flour

14 Apr

You knew this was coming, right? Can’t have “cereal” without “milk”!

Around the same time I started planning to make homemade granola, I re-considered almond milk. I’ve always been lactose-intolerant and grew up drinking the Lactaid brand of milk, but once I eliminated dairy and started hearing about the dangers of unfermented soy, I started buying almond milk from Trader Joe’s. BUT! My “In Defense of Food” food heritage (an awesome book, by the way) made me a little queasy about all the ingredients and additives, like tricalcium phosphate and dipotassium phosphate (whaaa?). This blog post was really helpful and confirmed that I wasn’t just being paranoid but then I was inspired to just make it from scratch (having heard it’s really easy).

I did a lot (lot!) of Google-ing and found that almost every blogger followed the same “recipe” more or less, and the one piece of “equipment” you needed was either cheesecloths (which I didn’t have) or a nut bag, like this one. Since it was pretty cheap (<$10) and I was pretty sure I would make batches and batches of this stuff, I just sucked it up and bought the bag.

Amazon also got me with their “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…” section and I realized my only glass pitcher was 1) no more because of a big crack and 2) wasn’t airtight anyway. Bought this mostly-highly rated glass pitcher with lid and I like it! Most of the complaints seemed to be around putting really hot liquid in the pitcher which would cause it to crack/shatter… so don’t do that, kthx.

I more-or-less followed these steps from Tasty Kitchen (with lots of pictures), but improvised here and there because I don’t have a big fancy blender (Vitamix, come to me!) and had to process in batches.

  • Soak almonds in water (fully covered) for at least 24 hours (Tasty Kitchen says 6, but other blogs said overnight or 2 nights ideally)
  • Drain almonds of soaking water, then blend with 4 cups filtered water (I used my handy Magic Bullet but did 4 batches of 1 cup water w/ 1/4 of the almonds)
  • (Optional) In two of the four batches, add 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 1/2 Tbs honey after your initial blend. It was more work, but I actually blended each of the four batches and put it in a bowl, then re-blended between batches to make sure the honey and vanilla were dispersed evenly. And as a reminder–if you have a blender, you don’t need to worry about this. Just add the vanilla & honey after the milk is foamy from being blended.
  • Once you’re all blended and somewhat seasoned, put your nut bag into your pitcher (or jar, or whatever) that you’re going to store the milk in. Slowly, carefully pour the almond milk from the blender into the nut bag, pressing against the leftover almond bits (the almond meal) to make sure you extract all the liquid, using either a spoon or your hands.
  • Store in the fridge, should be good for 3-5 days. My first batch only lasted 3 days because I drank it all… lol.

Once you’re done with your milk, take all of the leftover almond meal and you can make almond flour! Almond flour is a popular alternative for paleo and gluten-free bakers, and while I’ve never worked with it, I’m dehydrating my two batches of almond meal in the oven as we speak and pinning lots of recipes like this one for vegan chocolate-chip cookies.

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My dehydrating almond meal…

Anyway! Here’s how to dehydrate your almond meal (if you don’t have a dehydrator) using this recipe: Spread out the leftover almond clumps on a parchment paper lined baking sheet (I used a silpat) and pop into the oven at its LOWEST temperature (mine is 170 degrees) and leave for 3 hours–stirring occasionally. Once completely dry, give it a whirl in the food processor to get the texture of flour. As I mentioned, I’m still in process but will let you know how it goes!

Homemade Vegan Paleo Granola

13 Apr

I miss cereal and milk. Almost all cereals are made up of refined flours and lots and lots of sugar and additives… so at some point I relegated cereal to the “snack” category in my brain and stopped buying it.

Then! Just recently one of my favorite bloggers (who got married on the same day as us!) posted about a paleo-granola recipe that is nut and coconut-oil based, so I was super eager to try it too. She got her recipe from the Delighted Momma (a new blog for me) so I made a trip or two to Trader Joe’s to gather up my ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of pecans
  • 1 cup of hazelnuts (these didn’t look “peeled” to me, but I didn’t see any other kind at TJ’s)
  • 1 cup of raw almonds
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds (my addition)
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (my addition)
  • 1/2 cup organic raisins (my addition)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (my addition)
  • 1/4 cup of roasted flax seeds (did you know you’re supposed to store these in the fridge??)
  • 1 cup of coconut oil (measure it out while it is in solid form not melted)
  • 2 tbs of honey
  • 1/2 tsp of salt (I used kosher)
  • 1 tbs of cacao powder (I didn’t have this so didn’t include)
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon (I FORGOT THIS!)
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tbs of unsweetened shredded coconut  (I didn’t have this and couldn’t find it at TJ’s, so didn’t include)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees
  2. Place all your nuts in a food processor and pulse a few times until you have a granola like consistency.  Don’t over process!
  3. In a small pot melt and mix together the coconut oil, honey, vanilla, and salt.
  4. Add the mixed nuts to the melted mixture and coat your “granola” really well. (You would think that a small pot is too small… but it coats really easily so don’t worry about the size of your pot. I think I used a 1.5qt saucepan)

WP_000694Here’s my coated granola! So pretty!

5. Place granola on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. (I would recommend a sheet of parchment paper over a silpat for easy transition to storage)

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Baking baking baking

6. Let cool and eat just like you would eat any other granola!

Store granola in an airtight container in your fridge. Tip: I just carefully picked up my parchment paper lining into a big glass tupperware — less clean up and easy storage!

If you like your granola clumpy, I would set it out a few hours before you eat it because after being in the fridge, it’s pretty hard to get clumps — I “scrape” at it with a big spoon to get a more cereal-like consistency.

Let me know if you try it! I’m still making my way through my batch but have tons of nuts and ingredients leftover so I’ll definitely be making more. I just bought raw cacao nibs off Amazon (instead of powder… don’t ask why) so I’ll probably add it to my melting mixture next time (I’m a chocaholic but would love it if raw grows on me… 0 sugar!). I will also probably NOT include flax seeds next time–I keep trying and trying and trying to like them, but no dice. Can’t like everything, right?

Zucchini “Noodles”

10 Apr

I recently heard about this idea of making “noodles” out of vegetables (most commonly zucchinis) and had. to. do. it. It’s definitely not a new thing and has been around for a while among the raw/vegan/paleo world because an alternative to refined flour pasta… could be a winner!

The only barrier to entry is that you need a kitchen tool to accomplish it– either a spiral vegetable cutter like this one, or a hand tool like this or this. I went back and forth but ended up just getting the Padero plastic one–it was only $30 and in the grand scheme of things, not a big deal. I don’t love that it’s another appliance I have to store and/or give up counter space for, but if it’ll help us eat cleaner, then it’s worth it!

Finally put it on the meal plan and bought some zucchini–read the instructions (I really do!) and watched a couple YouTube videos to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. It’s super simple–you can peel (or not) but should trim the ends so they’re not rounded — then you press them into the base of the machine and then twist, twist, twist! Watch a video, it’ll make more sense.

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Here it is in action–Put it on top of a cutting board because they just pour out!

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Here’s how many “noodles” I ended up with after 1 package of Trader Joe’s organic zucchini–enough for 4. It’s recommended that you salt them and let them “sweat” out their moisture (kind of like eggplant) on top of paper towels.

WP_000693We’re still new to it, so I didn’t go completely raw and microwaved them for a minute to get them a little less crunchy… then tossed them with pesto (again, Trader Joe’s) and a mix of crimini & white mushrooms that I sauteed with a tiny bit of olive oil. I added chicken to B’s meal, but left mine as is.

Verdict: The machine is SUPER easy to use and easy to clean (so critical). The zucchini pasta was good, but not noodles… so I’ll probably try to microwave them a tiny bit longer. Alternatively, may try to turn it into a pasta-salad type of meal where the crunch is necessary. Can also use this machine for cutting other veggies (it comes with more than one style of cutter) so there will definitely be more meals with it!

Has anyone else try this before? Either zucchini noodles or the machine in general?

A Vegan Meal

5 Apr

Some people ask about what it is that I eat as a vegan, and especially as one who tries to avoid carbs/refined foods as much as possible. I’m not always “good” about eating like this, but when I am, it’s especially satisfying to know that I’m doing my body good.

Here’s an example of a meal I had for dinner yesterday (and lunch today) and have had before…

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The salad I just made up– almost entirely with ingredients from Trader Joe’s: organic baby lettuce, shredded carrots, organic avocado, toasted almond slivers, fresh ground pepper, and a tiny bit of this AWESOME mis0-sesame dressing from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook.

The miso-vegetable soup is an adaptation of this recipe from Eating Well (uh, they actually are pretty different) and I cook a bigger batch (leftovers, woo!):

  • Boil 10 cups water in a big pot, once boiling, carefully take a cup of the hot water out (I do it using a Pyrex liquid measuring cup) and mix in 1/4-1/2cup miso (1/2 if you like a lotta miso) until it’s dissolved, then incorporate back into the liquid and bring it back to boiling
  • Meanwhile, wipe/dry/chop up 2 packages of shitake mushrooms (from Trader Joe’s), rise/trim/cut 1 bag sugar snap peas (again, from TJ’s), rinse/cut 6 big green onions, rinse/dry 3 cups spinach, wash/shred carrots (if you don’t have shredded carrots already)
  • Once the miso water is boiling again, turn the heat back down to medium and add the carrots and mushrooms, stir/cook for 3-5 minutes (you don’t want the mushrooms too soft at this point)
  • Then add the snow peas, spinach, and scallions and simmer for another 5 minutes, then serve!
  • If you wait too long, the veggies get kind of mushy… and you can also add tofu if you’d like, but apparently there are some negative views on unfermented soy, so I don’t.

Let me know if you try either and enjoy!

An Update on Snacking

3 Apr

I’ve been a snacker my entire life but what I snack on has evolved and shifted with the seasons and years (and fads). The last time I wrote about snacking it was on my (now-defunct) food blog, Really Eating.

Background/tangent on Really Eating: I had started blogging there some time in 2009 and picked it up for a little bit in 2011, but it hasn’t been touched since. Maybe that will be where I keep track of food/recipes to not clutter up this blog (WordPress makes it easy to toggle back and forth)… but who knows.

Anyway, it’s interesting for me to evaluate how much my snacking has changed since November of 2011 (a little over a year). Bullets (in bold) are from the old post, comments and updates are in italics.

  • Greek yogurt (No more dairy for me, so no more Greek yogurt. I miss it!)
  • Costco trail mix (I stopped buying Costco trail mix because my chocolate consumption was getting out of control. I started buying trail mix ingredients from Trader Joe’s and making it myself at home. Started with roasted/salted, then roasted/lightly salted, then roasted/unsalted, and juuuuust bought my first batch of all raw, non-roasted nuts. It’s a change for my taste buds, but I know it’s better for me. Always include organic raisins + almonds, mix-ins include cashews, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, etc.)
  • Cereal (I stopped buying Chex cereal and cereal altogether in an attempt to lower my sugar/carb intake but recently started buying Kashi Heart to Heart cereal in order to get my daily dose of Vitamin B12–one of the vitamins that’s hard for vegans to get otherwise. Don’t love the carb intake, but for now it is what it is.)
  • Baby carrots and peanut butter (I still regularly snack on baby carrots, but often raw. Stopped buying peanut butter since peanuts are legumes… We do have almond butter at home but I don’t think to eat them together)
  • Fresh, seasonal fruit (Yes! Totally still love fruit. In-season right now: strawberries (organic, of course), blueberries, apples (are kind of always in season), bananas (ditto), and often an avocado with a bit of kosher salt to get some “good” fats)
  • Pudding cups (Cut these out because of sugar & dairy. I get my chocolate fix (occasionally) from dark (70%+) chocolate now… ideally fair-trade!)
  • Costco edamame packets (We just recently decided to stop buying these… no more legumes!)
  • Carrot-orange juice (Stopped this for one reason or another… replaced with green smoothies — a mix of 1 cup greens (spinach or mixed greens of some kind) + 1 cup water + 1 cup (or less…) fruit (almost always includes bananas to get it creamy, then a mix of whatever I have on hand/in the freezer–blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, mango, etc)
  • NEW: Roasted sweet potato (Almost all diets (vegan, paleo, primal…) like sweet potatoes, so this is one of the few safe and easy options)
  • NEW: Brown rice/roasted seaweed (Brown rice is the only carb I’m still friendly with–it’s a great source of protein and sometimes hits the spot when I need something a little more filling and warm)

I still cave (and crave) bad snacks here and there… I canNOT resist pita chips (or a lot of chips in general…) or cookies/baked goods… and I indulge in non-dairy ice cream from Scoops often (even though it’s soy/legume-based)… but the key to success is to not have any of those things at home. At the very least, when I’m at home, I can only snack on good things so that when I’m out and about and cheat a little bit, it balances out in my (and my body’s) favor. Anyyyyy other snacking suggestions??