Monday, July 25, 2011

Cucumber Rose Mocktail

Love Pink and Green!
Mmmm, I love gin and tonics! But, in an effort to make all of my other healthy choices count, I rarely indulge in them. The last week was indescribably amazing. The weather was so beautiful. Hot for native Alaskans, but for this Florida native, total bliss.

Of course, old habits die hard and the sun (and a really hot an sweaty 8 miler) made me crave the hammock with an icy gin and tonic in hand.

Instead, I made a mocktail. Not my usual lime and tonic water on ice. I was laying on the hammock looking at all of the wild Sitka Rose bushes in my 'yard.' Thinking about that one gin that is distilled with roses? Then I thought, gosh a Pimm's soda would be awesome. Except I don't have Pimms. But I do have lots of cucumbers in my greenhouse!  Here's what I made up. I'm sure a shot of Gin would only enhance the peppery coolness, if you are so inclined.

Cucumber Rose Mocktail
3-4 Cucumber slices
2 Tbs Rose Petals (fresh is key- remember darker petals have more flavor)
Good Quality Natural Tonic Water (or seltzer and supplement with honey/stevia)
Lots of ice
Cold Glass

Muddle rose petals in a glass. Basically you are trying to get the liquid out. Muddle Cucumber slices. Place in cocktail shaker (or mason jar) with tonic water. Shake/stir well.

Pour over chilled glass of ice.

Enjoy your marvelous summer day.

Summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.  ~Henry James

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Smoothie Sundays~ Banana Coconut Pie

Mmmm mmm.. Smoothies this yummy are like having dessert for lunch!

I found a bunch of forgotten banana slices in the depths of our storage freezer. All of a sudden I had a huge banana craving! I don't have them all that often. Having your banana frozen prior to blending is crucial to the milkshake consistency that makes this amaaaaaazing.

You don't have to prepare the coconut milk ahead of time.. but it is 'best.'

Banana Coconut Pie Smoothie
1 Cup Frozen Banana slices
1 Cup Almond Milk (or whatever)
3 Tbs Shredded Coconut Flakes (I use the larger, but any work-unsweetened)
1/4 of scraped Vanilla Bean (you could use maybe 1/2 tsp of extract instead.. but the bean is so intensely flavored and you get all those pretty specks!)

Splash of coconut milk for blending (optional-I just happened to run out of almond milk mid-blend).

Blend it all! Add 1-2 ice cubes to get it extra creamy! So, so delicious!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Quinoa Chocolate Cake

Puddings, cookies, breads, cereal, casseroles, burgers, soup, salad toppings.. I've tried just about everything with Quinoa. Most recipes were an experiment, trying to find new ways to enjoy this high protein grain (it's actually a seed).

While visiting my family, I got a couple of the women in my family converted with my favorite Quinoa/Avocado/Broccoli/Nutritional Yeast Mash. They took me to the health food store and had me walk around and answer questions about supplements and foods they've been wanting to try but didn't know what to do with.

One of my aunts started using cooked whole quinoa in her smoothies. This gave me an awesome idea, Quinoa Protein Powder! It's easy, and if you use the ivory quinoa, the taste is not overpowering (or the color). So, I just grind my quinoa into flour, store it in the fridge, and add to my smoothies!  From what I've read, and I do a lot of food research, such a high percentage of saponin is rinsed in processing that rinsing is unnecessary. But I purchase in bulk, and I'm just in the habit of rinsing everything. So, if you rinse, be sure it is completely dry (talking hours here) before grinding. This powder is super fine and can also be used to thicken soups instead of dairy or rice.

Against traditional thought, all varieties (ivory/golden/black/red) of quinoa are very close in nutritional value. True to anything red, the red quinoa is a source of Vitamin E. But then again, so does the Ivory variety! Red/black quinoa is said to have a few more grams of fiber, as well as a bit higher in calories and protein. The darker varieties seem to take a tad longer to cook, and have a stronger earthy taste (the kind of earthy feel you get from brown rice). Mostly described as 'nutty.'

The benefits seem endless! What can't this grain (SEED!) do? I won't repeat it all here. This is one of my favorite sources for a quick run down on nutritional info.

If you've been using a recipe you love over and over, but it's losing it's luster, you should check out this book. My hubby surprised me with this book when it came out and while some of the recipes are things I had tried, I was thrilled to see them! Tested recipes! Whoo! At their website you can try out recipes as they add them! Two very cool sisters wrote the book.

Last night I made one of my favorite recipes out the book. One of my girlfriends is leaving for Germany for a year (so sad! but so excited for her!). She had a going away party last night and I brought this flourless chocolate cake, topped it with my own icing recipe and freshly picked beach strawberries. It disappeared, as usual, and I finally let out the secret! I love seeing the reactions! "All this time?" haha! Some definitely felt better after knowing. However, I must say, while it is high in protein and gluten free, it is certainly not 'clean' or healthy. I have a 'cleaner' version of my own which I will post. For potlucks, I actually follow the recipe (a rarity for me). Ok, sometimes. Last night I followed it (well with the substitutions- we don't use dairy milk for example). Because it is flourless, the cake always comes out even and the recipe allows for two 8-inch cakes, so it is easily layered and Voila! you have a beautiful layer chocolate cake that doesn't take long at all!
 *Note about cooking time: Mine come out perfect at 35 minutes. I have a gas oven, so maybe that's it... but start checking at 35 minutes.

Instead of typing it out myself.. here it is. I'm positive once you try this recipe you'll buy the book. The first 10 pages are about the history, use and specifics of Quinoa. Nice resource. There is even a baby food section! Really!
The inside was even prettier!

Jo's Quinoa Chocolate Cake (variation on 365 Quinoa Recipe)
2/3 C Quinoa (white/golden/ivory)
1 1/3 C Water
1/3 C Almond Milk (instead of dairy)
4 large eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
3/4 C Coconut oil (instead of butter) (have used 1/2 C applesauce with great but dense result-cut back on sweetener)
2 tsp Stevia or 3/4 C Honey or 1/2 C Yacon (instead of 1 1/2 C Sugar)
1 C Cacao, Carob or Cocoa Powder (Cacao was really strong, I got headaches, carob was delicious, cocoa was best)
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt

*note about sweetener: I have tested all three. I listed them in order of preference. Honey tasted amazing, but for the cleanest option, go with stevia (dried, powdered, unprocessed is best). I have never used sugar in the cake. I use honey when I 'follow the recipe' and I still reduce it by at least 1/2 cup.
*note about Cocoa: we used to use carob in place of cocoa until I started raw foods in 2008 and found out about raw cacao. Now, I'm finding I get headaches from it, and I've been pulling away from cacao, cocoa and the like more and more. If you don't care, use Cocoa. It tasted best (and because of the theobromine, most people would get headaches from raw cacao). Theobromine is a myocardial stimulant (heart beats fast). You feel like you are on drugs if you have too much. Which makes sense now when I look back at some of the cacao loving raw foodists I met in Boone.. a little... 'wacky.'

Follow the same instructions for the recipe link above.

Ok, so everyone always wants to know about my chocolate icing. I used to make it with Agave. And started out making it with Avocado for raw brownies. It doesn't seem like it's going to work, but trust me. It will be very thin at first, once it cools.. you have control over the consistency. The colder it gets the harder. So, watch it unless you want to dirty more pans and heat it up and cool it back off again.

Basic Heart Healthy-ish Chocolate Icing
1/2 C Cocoa Powder
6 Tbs Coconut Oil
1/4 C Honey
1/2-3/4 tsp Vanilla
pinch of salt

On stove, in saucepan, melt/combine coconut oil and honey over lowest heat. Once melted, remove from heat and stir to fully combine.

Add to the saucepan, vanilla, cocoa and salt. Stir well with fork. For about 3-5 minutes. It will thicken. I usually transfer this to a freezer friendly bowl, then stir. Personal preference.

Once well combined, place in freezer, and check every 10 minutes or so until thickened, but still easily spread (so you don't tear your cake!). Ice completely cool cake.  COOL! Otherwise, it drips all over and what a mess. That goes for any icing.

I like to ice my cake with the icing not too thick, then place whatever pretty yummys I want on top, THEN place in the ridge for the icing to harden (thicken) completely.

Again, to go 'cleaner' omit honey, use stevia or apple juice.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Rosemary Grissini Crackers & Farmin' Friday

Ah, the everlasting quest to use up that almond pulp! I'm always throwing together an experiment that may or may not be awesome. This recipe is one I make every other month or so. I always seem to forget exactly how I did it the time before.

Gluten and wheat free, this cracker is basically- almond pulp. It is amazing! Doesn't taste like almonds, insanely crunchy, and they last forever. Anytime I bring these to a potluck, no one can believe I made them, and then, no one can believe they are raw and healthy. hahaha! I love tricking SAD (Standard American Diet) people! Showing people that eating healthy can be deliciousness, easy and not break the bank gives me great satisfaction.  I'm actually coaching my cousin right now through a detox and cleanse. She is kicking her own butt with exercise and completely re-designing her diet. I'm thrilled to be helping her along.

I used to love rosemary grissini. Crispy, salty, crunchy, with that touch of oil and rosemary.. ah! Total Italian heaven! Oh wait, that is Caprese...  This cracker reminds me so much of those, I had to give it props. I think you could roll these out into grissini shapes and dehydrate forever and get a similar result. I've been meaning to try that.

Okay, crackers! haha.. I mean, here are the crackers:

Rosemary Grissini Crackers

1 C Almond Pulp (I don't usually add sweetener or vanilla to my milk.. make sure you don't for this)
2 Tbs Flax Meal
1 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Tbs Rosemary (crushed in hand.. coarse)
1 tsp Thyme (ground/powdered)
1/2 tsp salt
*extra oil and salt for the tops

Mix very, very well in a bowl (I'm trying to go a whole week without my food processor!-um still using the blender though).
Spread thickly, evenly onto dehydrator sheets. Score now (or forever hold your peace!).
It's better to dehydrate for 1 hour or so before scoring.. but sometimes I forget and then I have to break pieces off.
Dehydrate at 104F.
After 2 hours or so, you can carefully move the crackers to a screen for faster drying.. but it isn't neccessary.
Continue drying overnight or until as crispy as you like!
In the morning, I'll brush them with oil, sprinkle with salt and let dry another 30 minutes or so.

Probably a bake-able recipe. I'd say start with 300F for 10 minutes.. watch closely for browning edges.

One other way I love to make crackers is with seeds! You can really use just about anything. Sometimes I add in lots of different seeds and spices to make an extra flavorful cracker. You could also go sweet with cinnamon and honey or cocoa/carob for a graham cracker.. just score large.

Here is an easy variation:

Honey Sesame Crunch
Same recipe as above- omit: herbs
Add 1/2 C Sesame (I like it chock full)
1/4 C honey
1/4 tsp garlic powder (optional-I've tried it both ways)

Follow the same instructions! Enjoy!

Farmin' Friday!
It was one busy week on the farm! A lot of mending, planting, picking, weeding, etc. There may have been a few hammock naps in there too. I've barely used the internet. Just the way I like it.

Well, the garden is near full bloom! It's much better than last year. We are definitely getting the hang o Alaska gardening. Down south we felt like pros! There is always more to learn about gardening. Always buying more books, trying to techniques. It's a lifelong adventure. Right now we are picking many various greens, lettuces, chards, cucumbers, broccoli rabe, young beets and turnips. That is all that is ready as the gardening season here is late and slow. One thing I'm particularly excited about is my purple Kohlrabi and my red onions, brandywine tomatoes.. and my dragon carrots. I'm excited about all of it.. but I especially love the funky colored stuff. Interesting fact; moose are color blind.. for example, they will eat red cabbage and walk right over green cabbage! haha

Speaking of moose! I was weeding, so I'm on the ground, low, quiet, and this moose and TWIN calves walk right by me (on the other side of the fence). It was magical. Gosh, what a moment. According to the local biologists, the twin rate is very high this year.

I'll let pictures say the rest!

Dinner, the injured chicken, is doing much better! She is hobble-walking and cackling. She wants to hang with her friends so bad, but because she limps, they picked on her. I chaperoned until it go out of control and brought her back into the garden with me. She is still sleeping inside. Here she is chilling in the raspberries (which, luckily aren't ready or she would annihilate them!).

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Smoothie Sunday~ Pluot Juicy Pear

We are running a tad lower on produce than usual. I did have a couple perfectly ripe, gorgeous, fuchsia and sweet Pluots and a perfectly ripe Bartlett Pear!

So, into the blender they went! It's puky brown, once the spinach was added.. but at one point it was as bright as beet juice!

Pluot Juicy Pear
2 small Pluots with skin-no pit
1 large ripe Pear
2 C Spinach
1/4 C Frozen Raspberries
Coconut Water added until easily blended... started with 1/4 C

Blend it all together, enjoy a fruity green Sunday afternoon smoothie! Makes enough to share!

*I also added in 1 Tbs Chia & 1 tsp bee pollen .. add whatever superfoods you like!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Flourless Beet Chocolate Cake & Farmin' Friday

For my birthday I really wanted to blow out candles. I wanted some tradition this year. Oh, I got candles. I got the ones that don't blow out. Ever. I yelled "die!" and dropped them to drown in my glass of water.

OK, I wanted some tradition. What I didn't want was the traditional sugar/flour overload. The hubs wouldn't be up for making a raw carrot cake, and besides, that's boring. I wanted chocolate! I've never liked chocolate cake. Until, I had beet chocolate cake. It was so amazing. But while the one I refer to was made with whole wheat flour, coconut oil and without eggs, it was still sugary and well.. full of flour?

I've never tried to make a raw beet cake (ooh, challenge!). I know that may not sound so great, but I love beets. They are naturally sweet, healthy and I'm pretty much sold on the impossibly vibrant hue. I love how it stains my fingers.

What I've found with many gluten free recipes is they are full of butter and eggs. We do have a lot of eggs around, but after many years of baking without them, I just don't use them. Why? I'm used to vegan cooking and baking and so I just do what I'm used to when I make say.. zucchini bread or something.

I googled healthy beet chocolate cake, wheat free chocolate cake, flourless chocolate cake.. and most recipes were full of butter, cream and eggs. While, I could indulge in adding egg, I wasn't ready for the full hit on my cholesterol. So, this was a huge experiment. And, yeah, I kind of made my own birthday cake...

I was determined to add beets. Overall it was successful. I couldn't get it out of the pan very easily, but it tasted pretty good. I loved the not so sweet taste.. but my guests may have preferred it sweeter since they covered it in vanilla ice cream!

Flourless Beet Chocolate Cake
1-2 oz. melted Dark Chocolate or about 1/2 C Cocoa powder
6 Tbs Coconut Oil
3/4 Tbs Vanilla
1/2 tsp dried Stevia
2-3 Good squirts Agave
3 Beets, medium, shredded
3-4 eggs
pinch of salt
pinch of cayenne (yeah baby)

So.. a few notes:
*I used part (half of each amount shown) melted chocolate and part cocoa (raw cacao has been giving me headaches).. because I was just experimenting. You can do either, or both.
*I didn't want it that sweet and still wanted ti healthy, so I used stevia.. then I thought.. ok.. just a couple squirts of agave... soo...
I used 4 medium eggs.. if you have large eggs, use 3.. I didn't say this was vegan right? You can keep in mind when purchasing eggs (support your local egg farmer!), that free range eggs are lower in cholesterol and higher in healthy omegas. I heard it here. That's just my biased opinion. Why eat eggs that came out of an unhappy, abused animal? Some say, why eat eggs at all? Yeah, I was there once.

Back to your normal programming: CAKE.
1) Shred the beets (I used a food processor). Simmer on the stove, covered, until tender.. about 20 minutes. You won't need to add liquid.. the beets have enough.
2) In another bowl, combine melted coconut oil, and all other ingredients, stir.
3) When beets are done, transfer to food processor, puree, add the bowl of remaining ingredients, blend a bit more, scraping if needed.
4) Pour into greased (grease it better than I did) and maybe dusted with cocoa powder- cake pan. I used a 9 inch (I think.. I finger measured). You can use muffin tins too. It was thinner than I had planned. Next time I will double the recipe, or use a smaller/deeper dish.
5) Bake @ 350 for about 10 minutes. No, really. I looked in and the cake had a volcano growth on one side.. it was done. My oven runs hot.. and it will depend on your pan.. but start checking at 10 minutes.

Let cool.

Chocolate Icing
1 Tbs Cocoa powder
3 Tbs Coconut oil
1 tsp Vanilla

I whipped this together in a food processor. Then pour into a bowl, and chilled so the coconut oil would harden a bit, making an icing consistency.

Once cake is cool, ice, top with whatever you want (I did strawberries and coconut) and chill until ready to serve.

Farmin' Friday!
Dinner, one of my funny white chickens that does things like this:
Dust Bath in a Pot Full of Dirt
and was missing for a week? Story here.

Well, she is still alive! The last few days, every time I come in to feed her, she tried to stand up like "See? Don't give up on me!" and then falls back over. But today, she stood! Really, really stood! Using both feet. She's has been more aggressive with her daily strawberries (flinging them in the air) and eggs and is even eating feed now. So happy!! I think she's going to make it for sure. Every time I get that bad feeling, they prove me wrong. Except for the baby barred rock that died in my hand in May. :( I had a good feeling and she just, didn't.
Here she is in all her dirty glory..
Lost weight huh?
A lot going on. A lot growing. Fireweed is about to bloom, Lupine, Wild Iris (pictured below) Yarrow and Comfrey are out. Currants are green and I'm waiting like crazy for the strawberries on the beach to be ready!

The last photo is our 'surprise!' rooster. Silver Leghorn if I'm not mistaken. It messes up our roo to hen ratio a bit, especially given we will likely lose a few hens over the course of the year to various causes (i.e. hawks). He is very friendly and calm. I knew he was a roo when he was a few weeks old, but hoped against it anyway. He lets out a lil baby crow at sunrise (3 am or so) and when he hears me come to open the coop. Just a couple more weeks and they should be big enough to let loose with our adult flock.

I'll let pictures tell the rest:

Surprise! I'm a Purty Roo!
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