I cried a little this week as I put away my flip flops for the season. So long as the sun was shining, I insisted on wearing them, even as it got chillier, but now with the temperatures starting to dip towards the freezing mark, I can no longer get away with it without discomfort.

There is very little that consoles me at this time of year, as I mourn the loss of my beloved Montreal summer once again. It’s always so difficult to accept the length of the cold months and the dreariness ahead. Dear Summer: why must you leave me?

Despite the chilliness and replacing my flip flops with sneakers, there is still much beauty in the fall season. In particular, the magnificence of the colours and abundance of the harvest is inspiring. Feelings of gratitude come easily every time I stroll through a farmers’ market. I love the bundles of organic root vegetables, fruits, and pumpkins. I make my way home with a bag full of colorful vegetables, daydreaming up possibilities. As soon as I get in, I can hardly wait to start washing, peeling and chopping for lovely soups and stews.

This week, I came home with three beautiful organic squash, each of a different variety: butternut, delicata and ambercup squash. It’s so fun to experiment with, and learn about the many different varieties of squash!

Butternut, delicata and ambercup squash

I started off this soup by putting the whole squash into the oven for a while to soften them. I find it too difficult to cut the squash in half when they are fully raw (I don’t own an axe!). Once they bake and soften a bit, I remove them from the oven and then cut them in half, and place them face down on the cooking sheet to finish baking. After they have cooled, you can scoop up the flesh and put everything in a blender or food processor. I love the comforting warmth, delicate sweetness and grounding feeling I get from indulging myself with this delicious soup. The essence of home cooking is found here: all these wholesome ingredients, so healthy and so easy to make, without any garbage. Truly, food for our body and soul!

Enjoy, in joy and in health!

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash
2 other varieties of squash
5-6 small potatoes, peeled, washed and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons of parsley, chopped
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 370˚F.
2. Place the squash whole in a large glass casserole or strong baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes to soften.
3. Remove from oven and cut the squash in half. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to baking sheet and place squash face down. Bake for 25 minutes or until flesh is very soft. Allow to cool.
4. Place potatoes, 1 clove chopped garlic and salt in a pot with filtered water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cook for approximately 20 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Drain.
5. In a small pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 2 cloves of garlic, until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
6. Scoop out flesh from the squash into your food processor or blender. Add potatoes and browned garlic (including oil).
7. Add 1 cup or purified water, parsley and salt. Blend until creamy. If the mixture is too thick for your liking, add more water.
8. Transfer mixture to a large pot and heat on low heat. Garnish with black pepper and parsley. Serve warm.

Revere the healing power of nature. ~Hippocrates

Follow Maria on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Apples n’ Cinnamon: The perfect pair!

Last Sunday, I made this delightful apple cake I dreamed up, and everyone at my party loved it! Many people asked me for the recipe, so I decided to share it with all of you!

I call it my comforting apple crumble cake because there is something so homey about anything with apples and cinnamon: apple pie, apple crumble, apple turnover. I guess that particular smell of apples and cinnamon reminds us of childhood when our moms, aunts and grandmothers would be baking and the whole house would smell like a warm hug! You will get that same feeling when you prepare this apple filling on your stove. It has to simmer slowly for almost an hour, allowing the aroma to dance its way into every room. Prepare the filling first so that it has time to cool a little before pouring it over the cake.

I chose to use organic apples for the filling. Organic means that the food in question was not grown with chemicals like pesticides and herbicides, and that it wasn’t genetically modified. Sometimes it is a little more difficult to find organic produce versus that which is conventionally grown, however, it is becoming more widespread. Let’s continue buying organic, and it will become more readily available! Also, sometimes, certain things are more expensive when they are organic. We all have to make a choice whether we want to invest a little more in what goes into our bodies and save on time spent being sick later on! I think it’s well worth it! Isn’t our health our most precious wealth?

This cake is delicious served on its own with a hot cup of green tea or coffee, or also for added yumminess, with a scoop of coconut vanilla ice cream. Ohhhh heaven! I’m in heaven!

Enjoy, in joy and in health!

Follow Maria on Twitter and Facebook.

Ingredients:

 Filling:

7-8 large, sweet red apples, peeled and chopped

1 cup unsweetened apple sauce

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup raw agave nectar

1 teaspoon coconut oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

½ teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cake:

4 cups whole wheat pastry flour or brown rice flour (gluten-free option)

1 cup raw cane sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

4 teaspoons egg replacer

1 cup grapeseed or coconut oil

¾ cup purified water

¼ cup unsweetened apple sauce

½ teaspoon sea salt

Topping:

½ cup almond flour

½ cup raw cane sugar

½ cup old fashioned rolled oats

3 teaspoons vegan butter or coconut oil

Method:

  1. In a large pot, combine all filling ingredients and simmer on low heat for 45-55 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  3. Combine cake ingredients in a large bowl.
  4. Knead mixture into firm loaf. If loaf crumbles or is too hard to work with, add a tiny amount of water. Remove 1/3 of the mixture and set aside.
  5. Press down mixture in a 10 inch x 10 inch glass or ceramic baking dish.
  6. Pour in cooled apple filling.
  7. With remaining 1/3 of the cake mixture, take small amounts and make palm-sized patches with your hands. Place patch by patch over fruit filling until all the fruit is completely covered.
  8. In a small bowl, combine all topping ingredients. Rub mixture between fingers until it begins to form small clumps. Sprinkle topping over top of the cake.
  9. Bake for 50 minutes.
  10. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 1 ½ to 2 hours before cutting. Serve warm on its own or with coconut vanilla ice cream.
Fresh out of the oven! Overflowing with deliciousness!

“A human being is a part of a whole, called by us ‘universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” ~Albert Einstein

Potato and Roasted Garlic Soup

When I posted pictures of a warm avocado soup I created this week, Bonnya wrote to me from India and said that avocado is not always easy to come by in India. She asked me if I could think of an alternative to avocado.

Oh my, but avocado was the main ingredient, besides love of course! What to do, what to do, what to do …. My mind started going quickly through various factors to consider: texture, color, taste, … and … availability in India!

Aha – it hit me! How about potato? I told Bonnya my idea and she seemed very pleased. She said that would work because potato is their “sacred vegetable” in India. I told her I would try it out at Amore’s Kitchen and let her know.

Try it out I did. I got to work and decided to prepare it for a family brunch I was having on Sunday. I took a chance. I don’t often prepare something for the first time when it is intended for guests, but I decided to make it the night prior – plenty of time to start over if it was lousy!

When I am creating in the kitchen, I first imagine what flavours and textures I am looking for. I knew the potatoes, once boiled and cooled, would puree just fine in the food processor – so the texture was covered in my mind – but what taste was I looking for? I imagined roasted garlic, and kept thinking about that “twice baked potato” they do with chives and sour cream. Chives were in for me, sour cream of course not, but I decided to add a little nutritional yeast for a hint of cheesy and nutty (totally optional). I could have gone for a cashew-based sour cream-type ingredient, but did not feel it necessary since the pureed potatoes would be creamy on their own.

Indeed they were! A spoonful of a taste-test for me, and I was satisfied with the textures and flavour. I then called my mother over to give me her verdict.

“Hey, Ma: Try this. Is it fit to serve to guests tomorrow?” She said maybe a touch more sea salt, but other than that my, my, my, not too shabby at all!

The next day, I heated it up for my guests and they loved it!

Vegan Brunches at Amore’s Kitchen!

Fast, simple, a minimal number of easily accessible and affordable ingredients – this is probably the easiest and most inexpensive soup you will ever make! Satisfying and tasty – a perfect upcoming autumn and winter recipe. Also very convenient: make a big batch and simply heat it up on the stove when you need some warmth.

I wrote to Bonnya with pictures and the recipe. She too made it for her family and was ecstatic with the results! She loved it! My heart exploded with joy when I received her feedback!

Try it and bliss out too! Enjoy, in joy and in health!

Ingredients:
Makes approximately 6 servings

10-12 small to medium white potatoes, peeled
1 large white onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon of grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons of dried chives
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 cups purified water
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper and chopped fresh parsley to garnish

Method:

1. Wash and peel potatoes. Place potatoes in a big pot with water, onion, 1 tablespoon of sea salt and 1 garlic. Bring to a boil and then lower heat. Cook until potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. Drain water and allow to cool.

2. In a small pot, heat grapeseed oil and add remaining garlic. Allow garlic to cook until slightly golden, but not burnt. Allow to cool.

3. Once cooled, add boiled potatoes (with onion and garlic) and garlic (with oil) to a food processor or blender. Add chives and nutritional yeast. Blend well until smooth and creamy. If mixture is too thick, add a little more water.

4. Transfer mixture to a pot and warm on stovetop.  Stir occasionally.

5. Garnish with freshly ground black pepper and parsley if desired. Serve warm.

“Dear Maria,
Today, this morning, the first thing I did is I prepared the soup. It was mindblowing! It kickstarted our day with bundles of delight. It is a food for happiness. Hats off to you for your amazing creation.
Thank you very much.”
~Bonnya Lahiry Chattopadhyay, from Calcutta, India.

Follow Maria on Twitter and Facebook.

 

 

Granola with blueberries,banana and almond milk!

This week, how about we make some granola? You know you want to and everyone will love you for it! Let’s do it!

I learned this recipe from Ann Gentry’s marvelous book (which I highly recommend), Vegan Family Meals, and simply added a few ingredients myself. It is so delicious! You can eat it as a snack, combined with your favorite cereal, non-dairy milk and fruit, or add a little to your favorite raw nut mix to increase the yumminess factor!

We already discussed the large variety of non-dairy milks on the market. With such tasty, healthy, kind alternatives to dairy, it’s so easy to make the right choice. We can also easily make fresh nut milks at home, which are, the healthiest option of all! Ann Gentry provides an easy recipe in her book. Also, the amazing Montreal-based Naturopath and Raw Food Chef Joanne Gero has a Youtube video channel where she shows us step by step how to make a fabulous almond milk! YUMMY!

This granola is really simple to put together; the majority of the time it takes to prepare this recipe is spent chopping all the nuts! I put some tunes on and it becomes a meditative process for me. I also love to teach this recipe to my students in my vegan cooking class at McGill University. We have lots of fun preparing this recipe together and we practically smell up the whole building with the tantalizing aroma as it bakes!

Making granola!

 

You will notice from the recipe below that the sweetness comes from maple syrup. The rice syrup is also necessary, not for sweetness since it doesn’t have much of a taste on its own, but rather it is essential for its binding effect. The rice syrup is our little secret weapon for creating those much loved clusters in the granola! Love granola clusters!

This granola stores very well in mason jars or any glass jar for 2 weeks and more! The crunchiness and freshness remain intact. This is why I love making a batch and bringing it as a gift to friends. Who doesn’t love homemade granola? Try it and have a blast!

Enjoy, in joy and in health!

Granola gifts!

Ingredients:
Makes about 7 cups

1 ½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup raw Brazil nuts, chopped
½ cup raw, shelled sunflower seeds
½ raw almonds, chopped
½ cup raw pecans, chopped
½ cup raw walnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
¾ cup maple syrup
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
¼ cup dried apricots, diced
1/3 cup golden raisins
¼ cup goji berries

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 300˚F.
2. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
3. In large bowl, mix oats and all chopped nuts and seeds. Mix in cinnamon and salt.
4. Heat coconut oil in a saucepan over low heat. Add maple syrup, rice syrup, water, vanilla and whisk just until blended and heated through.
5. Drizzle the syrup mixture over the oat mixture and stir with a whisk to coat.
6. Spoon granola mixture evenly over parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes.
7. As granola bakes, gently stir it every 15 minutes.
8. Add apricots, goji berries and raisins and cook for 10 more minutes.
9. Allow to cool. It will become crunchy when cool. Serve alone as a healthy snack, add a couple of spoonfulls to your raw nut mixes, or with cereal, banana and/or blueberries and a non-dairy milk of your choice.

“Want your family to enjoy delicious, healthful meals and snacks? Feel and look their best? Improve their long term health? Help the environment? Vegan food makes an incredible difference, for our bodies and for the world around us.” ~Ann Gentry, Vegan Family Meals

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are delicious, nutritious and versatile. Here is a quick and easy salad recipe which you can serve alone, as a side dish or over your favorite greens, such as crispy arugula lettuce.

Some people buy their chickpeas in a can, which you can do if you like—it’s definitely quicker, but not the healthiest option, in my opinion. Anything that is canned contains preservatives, added table salt, sometimes bleaches and food coloring, and possibly other chemicals to increase its shelf life. Simply speaking, the process of canning foods makes it “processed food”. This is not as healthy as fresh produce. With chickpeas, there is more nutrition in buying them dehydrated, soaking and cooking them yourself. For maximum nutrition, you can also experiment with sprouting your own chickpeas.

Furthermore, since fundamentally we and everything around us is energy, we can look at the link between health and food from a vibrational perspective. As Dawn James explains in her book, Raise Your Vibration, Transform Your Life, everything in nature vibrates at specific frequencies, which can be measured with certain instruments, including our own cells. There is research being done now examining the connection between vibrational frequencies and the state of our health. Even our thoughts and emotions change our cells’ vibrational state.

With respect to food, when the vibrational levels are recorded in Hertz (Hz), fresh produce measures up to 27 Hz, whereas canned food measures in at 0 Hz! What does that mean? It seems that canned food is dead food! As James points out on page 20 of her book, “canning preserves food by heating it in airtight, vacuum-sealed containers; this process removes oxygen, destroys enzymes and kills most microorganisms that may be present in food. The canning process also compromises the quantity and quality of water-soluble vitamins contained in food.” 

I buy my chickpeas in bulk, soak them overnight in purified water, and then cook them the next day. You can also freeze them once they are cooked, so you simply have to defrost when you want to use them.

I soak and cook the chickpeas with a bay leaf and a piece of Kombu (type of kelp). The bay leaf is the Western solution to the issue of intestinal gas that some people experience when they eat chickpeas and other beans, whereas the Kombu is the Eastern solution. I use both, but one or the other also works sufficiently well. Skimming the foam while the chickpeas cook is also another useful trick in eliminating the gas-producing properties of chickpeas. Try these tricks and you’ll experience a big difference!

Enjoy, in joy and in health!

Cheeky Chickpea Salad

Ingredients:

2 cups chickpeas, pre-soaked and cooked
1 celery stalk, chopped
6 cherry tomatoes, quartered
3 green onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar OR juice from one lemon
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method:

1. Soak chickpeas overnight with one bay leaf and one strip of dried Kombu.
2. Boil chickpeas (including bay leaf and Kombu) for 1.5 to 2 hours. Skim foam while cooking. (Skimming, in addition to the bay leaf and Kombu, removes gas-producing effects.)
3. Remove from heat and drain all liquid. Discard bay leaf and Kombu. Allow to cool.
4. Mix cooled chickpeas and all other ingredients in large bowl.
5. Refrigerate for ½ hour for flavours to marinate. Serve chilled.

 

“If you want to raise your vibration through the consumption of food, then you need to eat foods in their most natural and organic state, with the highest amount of life force energy, the least amount of pesticides and the least amount of processing to ensure your cells receive the nutrients they need so your organs can function optimally.” ~Dawn James, Raise Your Vibration, Transform Your Life

Follow Maria on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Lentil, mushroom and spinach stew

Last week I promised you another protein-rich meal: lentil stew, so, with pleasure, here she is! Lentils make a delicious, nutritious, and truly satisfying meal that can be served alone, or over your favorite rice or noodles.

Lentils are legumes which are easier to prepare than dried beans because they do not require several hours of soaking prior to cooking. They cook relatively quickly and absorb the flavours of spices easily. Other than being simply delicious, they are a nutrient powerhouse! They have a ton of iron and protein, are rich in minerals, B vitamins and fiber, which assists in the lowering of cholesterol and blood glucose levels.

There are many different types of lentils that you may want to experiment with and see what suits your taste buds. For a warm dish like this, I like the taste and texture of French lentils (soft, “meaty”, almost creamy), whereas if I am making a lentil salad, I prefer the taste and texture of green lentils (firm and a little crunchy). The green lentils take longer to cook, so keep in mind that one hour will definitely not be enough time to prepare them. If you under-cook them, they won’t be flavorful and you’ll end up having the misconception that lentils are bland. Red or yellow lentils I like a lot in Indian recipes. Try them all and see what you like best!

French, red and green lentils

Enjoy, in joy and in health!

Lentil Stew

Ingredients:
2 cups French lentils
2 cups mushrooms, chopped
4 cups spinach or rapini, chopped
4 gloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 cups homemade vegetable broth (or you can replace with purified water only)
1 cup purified water
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon unsalted steak spice
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
½ cup fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Method:
1. In a pot, heat 1 tablespoon of oil and 2 gloves of garlic over medium heat. Add lentils and stir, making sure they are coated with oil. After about 2-3 minutes, add broth and water. Add sea salt and bay leaf.
2. Once mixture boils, lower to simmer and allow to slow cook for approximately 1 hour. Taste test to make sure the lentils are soft. If all the water is absorbed but lentils are still too hard, add a little more water and allow to cook for longer. Different types of lentils will take longer to cook.
3. While lentils are cooking, in a saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 clove of garlic. Add chopped mushrooms, steak spice, oregano, fennel seeds and sea salt. Cook over medium heat until most of the moisture from the mushrooms has evaporated and mushrooms are soft, about 15 minutes. Set aside.
4. In another saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 clove of garlic. Add chopped spinach or rapini. Add chili flakes and sea salt. Cook over medium heat until leaves are wilted and tender, about 10 minutes for spinach, 20 minutes for rapini. Set aside.
5. Once lentils are soft, remove bay leaf and discard. Add mushrooms and spinach or rapini to the pot. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley or cilantro. Can be served alone in a bowl or over rice or noodles. Serve warm.

Lentils and spinach over rice

 

“To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” ~Elbert Hubbard

Follow Maria on Twitter and Facebook.

 

This week I’d like to share with you a summery-tasting little dish: quinoa pilaf, garnished with fresh dill and lemon zest. The dill and lemon really make this dish refreshing and light – perfect for a healthy summer meal. I learned this recipe from Rosie Schwartz, a Toronto-based dietitian.

I’ve already discussed at length the health benefits of quinoa, and that it is a complete protein all on its own. There are so many ways to prepare it – for breakfast, lunch and dinner – that quinoa can easily become a staple in any vegan or non-vegan home.

A pilaf is traditionally a rice dish, in which the rice is cooked in broth, and vegetables such as peas are typically included. Quinoa makes a lovely alternative to the rice for those of you looking to add plant-based proteins to your diet. Quinoa can be found in its red, white and black variety.  Below, I used a combination of red and white.

Quinoa Pilaf

The vegetable stock I use to cook the quinoa in I also make myself since it is so easy to prepare. What I do is when I am cooking vegetables like broccoli, spinach, kale, rapini, mushrooms, etc., I keep the stalks instead of discarding them. I then boil them with an onion, a couple of cloves of garlic, sea salt, oregano, a couple of carrots and a celery stalk, if you have it lying around. A tomato is also nice to make the broth slightly sweeter, and any other vegetable works too. The more you add, the tastier it will be. Boil this concoction for at least an hour and then strain the liquid once it has cooled a bit. I store it in Mason jars. There you have a tasty vegetable stock to use as a base for soups or with which to cook your quinoa, rice, or lentils. Next week, I’ll share with you a hearty lentil soup recipe for which the vegetable broth can also be used.

Lina’s Vegetable Broth

This vegetable stock is not only delicious, but also comes with a funny background story: I developed the method in a dream. I had a dream in which my mom (who is also a vegan) was complaining that she wanted broth but could only find chicken broth. She was appalled and saddened in the dream. So, Ms. Problem Solver and the Veganizer herself said: “Mom, don’t worry, we’ll make broth from kale stalks.”

There you have it folks: Lina’s Vegetable Broth was born! When I said I dream up this stuff, I wasn’t kidding!

A vegan mama and her daughters

Enjoy, in joy and in health!

Lina’s Vegetable Broth

Ingredients:

2-3 cups of green vegetable stalks of your choice
2-3 carrots, chopped in half
1 celery stalk
1-2 gloves of garlic, halved
1-2 onions, quartered
8 cups purified water
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon dried oregano

Method:

1. Boil all ingredients together for at least one hour.
2. Cool. Strain and store in Mason jars.

 

Quinoa Pilaf

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 cup chopped green onions
2 cups mushrooms, chopped
2 cups vegetable broth
¾ cup green peas, cooked
1/3 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 tablespoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method:

1. In a sauce pan over medium heat, toast quinoa. Stir occasionally until golden, about 5 minutes. Set aside in a bowl.
2. In the same saucepan, heat oil and add onions with a pinch of sea salt. Sauté until soft. Add mushrooms and cook until soft, about 10 minutes.
3. Add quinoa and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Cook covered until all the liquid has absorbed, about 15 minutes.
4. Once quinoa is cooked, add peas, lemon juice, lemon zest, dill and sea salt and pepper to taste.
5. Garnish with a sprig of dill. Serve warm.

 

“I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” ~Martin Luther King Jr.

Follow Maria on Twitter and Facebook.

 

“In fact, all the protein on the planet was formed by the effect of sunlight on green plants. The cow did not eat another cow to form its muscles, which we call steak. The protein wasn’t formed from thin air, the cow ate grass.” ~Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

Many people have this misconception that we need meat or other animal products to get protein in our diets, but that is not the case at all. Protein can be found in high amounts in plant sources such as legumes, greens, nuts, seeds, beans, and grains.

A complete protein is a source of protein that contains all 9 essential amino acids in correct proportions necessary to support biological functions. Some plant-based proteins are complete proteins on their own, such as quinoa, buckwheat or soybeans, for example. Non-animal sources from the sea can also be complete proteins, such as the super-food spirulina.  Other foods, like whole-grain rice becomes a complete protein when it is combined with beans.  Similarly, a simple and classic favorite, peanut butter on whole grain bread, also becomes a complete protein in this combination.

 

With all these choices of complete proteins that don’t come from animals, it becomes a choice whether to participate in their enslavement, suffering and slaughter or whether to abstain and get your optimal nutrition from kinder sources.

“A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral.”~Leo Tolstoy

Below, I share with you 2 recipes, one for a rice dish and another for a bean salad, which when combined together, give you a very satisfying, delicious, complete protein vegan meal. Enjoy, in joy and in health!

 

 

Brown Basmati and Long Grain Wild Rice with green vegetables

Ingredients:

1 cup long grain wild rice

1 cup brown basmati rice

Water or vegetable broth as required to cook rice, at least 4 cups

2 cups spinach, chopped

2 cups broccoli, chopped

1 cup frozen peas, boiled

1 cup mushrooms, chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons dried oregano

½ cup fresh parsley, chopped

3 tablespoons grapeseed oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method:

1. For best results, cook each type of rice separately. Each rice you choose will come with specific cooking instructions due to differences in length of time required to cook. Before following those instructions, I do as follows (optional): heat 1 teaspoon of oil and 1 minced garlic for 2-3 minutes. Add rice and stir to allow the oil to coat the rice evenly. Add 2 cups of water or vegetable broth and cover to simmer. Add approximately 1 teaspoon of sea salt. Stir frequently.

2. Once all the liquid is absorbed, taste the rice to see if the desired consistency has been reached. If it is still too hard, add a little more liquid and repeat test once all liquid is absorbed.

3. While rice is cooking, sauté vegetables with garlic, sea salt and oil. Again for best results, cook them separately.

4. Place peas in a pot with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Once water boils, immediately remove from heat and drain. Set aside.

5. Once rice is cooked and all vegetables are ready, combine all ingredients in a large serving bowl. Taste test to determine whether more salt is required. Add pepper as desired.

6. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley. Serve warm.

 

Red Kidney Bean and Celery Salad

Ingredients:

2 cups dehydrated red kidney beans OR 1 cup of kidney beans and 1 cup of any other bean of your choice, soaked overnight with one bay leaf and one strip of dried Kombu.

1 cup celery, chopped

1/3 cup fresh parsley OR cilantro, finely chopped

4-5 green onions, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoons flax seed oil OR 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds

1 teaspoon dried chili flakes

2 teaspoon dried oregano

2 tablespoons hemp seeds

Juice from one lemon OR 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

 

Method:

  1. Boil beans with bay leaf and Kombu for 1 to 1.5 hours (or until beans are soft) with one clove of garlic and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Skim foam while cooking. (Skimming, in addition to the bay leaf and Kombu, removes gas-producing effect of beans.) Allow to cool.
  2. Mix cooled beans and all ingredients in large bowl.
  3. Serve chilled.

 

“Choose to inhale. Do not breathe simply to exist.” ~Mattie Stepanek

Follow Maria on Twitter and Facebook.

Vegan Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake

I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s like an obsession for me. Saturday morning, I woke up with the irresistible desire to make an irresistible cake! I had so much to do, but I was compelled to put everything aside and start creating in my kitchen. I wanted to combine the flavors of orange and chocolate. Even more wild, I conceived of a raw vegan chocolate icing, based on a recipe I invented a while ago for a vegan “Nutella-like” spread.

I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but I put on some tunes, a big smile and got to work!

This cake was so much fun to make. My whole kitchen smelled like oranges for hours and would you believe that my mom, who lives next door, reported smelling oranges too! As you’ll see in the recipe below, the cake itself is sweetened with freshly-squeezed orange juice, which is even sweeter than the icing we will make. The balance of sweet orange and slightly bitter chocolate icing is purely divine.

A while ago, I came up with a vegan cake “template” which was very successful. If I deem it appropriate for my goal, a moist cake which makes a perfect partner for a nice cup of coffee or tea, I use this template and adapt it as my imagination dictates. The basis is 2 cups of flour – a flour appropriate for your likes and needs. This time, I chose to use a gluten-free option: brown rice flour. To that we must add some egg replacer, baking powder and baking soda to make the cake rise. Then we need to choose an appropriate sweetener. For this one, I added a little maple syrup and I juiced 3 oranges. Next, for added moistness, we need a small amount of oil. I chose grapeseed because it is a healthy oil to cook with. That completes the template and then depending on the flavours you’re looking for, certain spices can be added, nuts, zests, you name it!

This is a vegan recipe, so of course we don’t use eggs. Eggs are amongst the cruelest foods on earth. I use Ener G egg replacer and it works like a charm! Why be cruel when we could be kind?

A couple of weeks ago, I used my template to make a very delicious banana chocolate chunk cake, which I will share with you another time. This time, let’s make the orange!

My sister was coming home that day from her vacation and we were having dinner together at my mother’s house that night. I decided to call the cake The “Welcome Home Cake” in her honor. Both my mother and sister loved it so much! They were delighted to keep the left-overs.

Go make a cake and be in the moment! You are sure to smile and make someone else smile with this yumminess! Enjoy, in joy and in health!

Ingredients:

Cake:

Lots of love

2 cups brown rice flour

1 teaspoon “cake spice” or “pumpkin cake spice”

4 teaspoons egg replacer

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/3 cup dairy-free chocolate chunks

1/3 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup grapeseed oil

1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (approximately 3 oranges)

4 tablespoons orange zest

 

Chocolate Icing:

1/3 cup coconut oil, slightly heated until soft

1/3 cup raw agave nectar

1/3 cup raw hazelnuts

1/3 cup hazelnut butter

2 teaspoons agave powder

2/3 cup raw cacao powder

2 tablespoons hazelnut oil

½ cup coconut water

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  2. For the cake, combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Stir thoroughly.
  3. Combine wet ingredients in separate bowl, including 2 tablespoons of orange zest.
  4. Pour wet ingredients into dry mixture and stir with spatula.
  5. Pour mixture into glass or porcelain baking pan.
  6. Bake for 35 minutes.
  7. Prepare icing by blending all ingredients in a food processor until creamy. Set aside.
  8. Allow at least 2 -3 hours for the cake to cool before adding the chocolate icing. Sprinkle remaining orange zest on top of the icing for garnish.
  9. Serve with love.

“Love is not a sentiment or an emotion. It’s the fact that we’re all the same being in different disguises.” ~Deepak Chopra

 

Follow Maria on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Orange Sorbet with Basil

Is there anything we love more than frozen treats in the summer? Vegans have no trouble finding non-dairy frozen dessert options with the many delicious coconut and soy ice creams on the market. Sorbets are naturally dairy-free, but often the store bought varieties contain a lot of processed sugar and preservatives. When it’s this easy to make your own, why not? Let me tell you how! This will be one of the easiest recipes you’ve ever put together!

The first sorbet I attempted was orange, but this method works for other citrus fruits like lemon or lime as well. Also, you can most certainly make sorbet with berries, banana, mango, pineapple, melon, for example.  Only your imagination is the limit and we know that imaginations have no limit!

“Limitations live only in our minds. But if we use our imaginations, our possibilities become limitless.” ~Jamie Paolinetti

With citrus fruits, I found it fun and pretty to use the peel itself as cups in which to serve the sorbet. With other fruits you may want to find little serving bowls, glasses or cups to serve in.

Since fruit is naturally sweet, you do not need to use an ingredient to sweeten it, however, with citrus or berries, you may appreciate a sweeter taste. In this case, there are many healthier alternatives to processed sugar.

Vegans stay away from honey since it too is an animal product which brings great suffering to bees, but we have the kind wonders of agave nectar to sweeten any treat, without blowing our glycemic index through the roof.

There is some controversy (as with most things) with respect to how healthy agave nectar really is: some have said it is as bad for you as the evil high fructose corn syrup. I am not too concerned about this since I only use it on occasion. I buy as unprocessed a product I can find, and always get the “raw” variety.  In my opinion, it is a useful ingredient to have as a sweetener because it does not affect the glycemic index like processed sugar does and it is almost flavorless so it will not interfere with the taste of the fruits in this recipe for example. Maple syrup is also a nice natural sweetener, but it does change the flavor. It is a nice option for the frozen banana treat!

For those who want to avoid the extra calories and any slight impact on their glycemic index, then stevia is the best choice. Stevia is an extremely sweet herb which can be used safely and healthily as a natural sweetener in any recipe. Since it is so sweet, only a few drops are necessary to render the sorbet sweeter than the fruits are on their own.

Alternatively, this recipe works great for making popsicles as well! You will need to purchase a popsicle mold and pour the mixture into it. Depending on which fruits you use, you can even throw in some small pieces of fruit with the blended mixture – this makes it look even prettier when frozen! You don’t even absolutely need molds if you don’t have them; tiny bowls, cups or even Dixie cups do the trick if you have popsicle sticks. It’s so easy and so delicious it’s almost unbelievable!

Strawberry, mango and kiwi popsicles

 

Have fun with this one and stay cool! Enjoy, in joy and in health!

Orange Sorbet

Ingredients:

Makes 2 servings

2 oranges

1 teaspoon raw agave nectar, OR a few drops of stevia, OR any form of sugar acceptable to you

Method:

  1. Cut the orange in half. With the help of a paring knife, cut out the interior of the orange without piercing the orange peel.
  2. Place the interior of the orange in the blender.  Add the agave nectar, stevia, or sugar of your choice. Blend until thick and clumpy.
  3. Place the peels (which we will use as cups) in the freezer to harden.
  4. Pour orange mixture into a bowl and place in the freezer for 1 hour.
  5. Remove from the freezer and blend very briefly on low speed a second time in the blender.
  6. Scoop up the mixture and place in the orange peel cups in a mound shape. Place in the freezer for another hour or until completely hardened. Garnish with mint, basil, cacao nibs, berries or crushed nuts of your choice.

“We cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love.” ~Mother Teresa

Follow Maria on Twitter and Facebook.

 

 

Fried eggplant so delicious no one will miss the cheese!

We all know we shouldn’t eat too many fried foods. However, once in a while, and especially when you are using an oil which doesn’t denature at high temperatures, a home cooked fried dish, made with amore, is completely OK! This week I share with you a classic Italian recipe in its veganized form, Eggplant No-Parmesana, because that’s what I do: I veganize!

My sister Felicia has always loved this dish. Whenever we have a special family occasion, she always asks either me or my mom to make this eggplant delicacy. When I successfully managed to veganize it, I naturally named it after her!

Sister Love!

There are many recipes we are familiar with that commonly use cheese. We already discussed the horrors of dairy so naturally we will stay far away from it at all costs. Also, there is a growing body of research indicating that in fact milk does a body bad, very bad. Giving up dairy milk for most people is not that difficult, but the thought of letting cheese go often makes people panic. It is useful to understand that there is a real biological reason for this: cheese is physically addictive.

Although there is a multitude of non-dairy cheeses available, all delicious, sometimes we can just make the classic dish without any cheese at all. The non-dairy cheeses (I encourage you to try them) all have their own distinct flavor and therefore can interfere at times with the classic taste we are looking to achieve, like for example, with this eggplant dish. For this reason, I chose to make it without any cheese at all, and topped it instead with hemp seeds (a little nutritional yeast mixed with the hemp seeds is a common cheesy-tasting replacement you may want to try as well). I must say it was excellent! My sister loved it!

I like the lightness of grapeseed oil for stovetop cooking. Coconut oil is another oil which does not denature at high temperatures and is therefore also ideal for cooking.

Typically, Italians serve this dish with fresh (usually white!) bread. Soooo yummy! However, we can choose healthier whole-wheat, kamut or millet bread options, sprouted grain breads, or vegan whole-wheat pitas or even vegan naan bread. It’s nice to have something to scoop up the sauce with so choose whatever bread you like! You can also pass on the bread – no harm done!

The tomato sauce is a very important component to this dish. It must be perfectly delicious in order for this recipe to be a success. Therefore, I strongly recommend making your own tomato sauce, so as to avoid the added sugar and preservatives (don’t worry – it’s so easy)!

Here you are: another classic Italian recipe to add to your repertoire, new and improved in its vegan splendor! Enjoy, in joy and in health!

Ingredients:

2 large eggplants
2 cups homemade tomato sauce (see recipe in previous FTB article)
2 teaspoons sea salt
½ cup grapeseed oil
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 cup chopped parsley
3-4 basil leaves
1 tablespoon hemp seeds (and nutritional yeast if desired)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method:
1. Slice eggplants into thin, round pieces.
2. Arrange slices layer by layer in a colander, sprinkling sea salt over each layer. Cover colander with a plate and place a weight over the plate to apply pressure to the slices of eggplant. This will help drain excess water from the eggplant. Let drain for 4 to 5 hours before cooking.
3. In a large saucepan, heat the oil at high heat. Introduce 4-5 pieces of eggplant and fry for 5 minutes or until they appear slightly golden and crispy. Turn pieces over and repeat.
4. Once cooked, place each piece of eggplant on paper towels to drain excess oil.
5. In a large glass casserole dish, add one cup of tomato sauce. Place pieces of cooked eggplant in casserole and once layer is complete, add sauce to the whole layer. Start another layer with pieces of cooked eggplant and repeat procedure until all eggplant pieces are in the casserole.
6. Place casserole in the oven and bake at 350˚F for 10 minutes.
7. Remove from oven and garnish with parsley, basil leaves and hemp seeds. Serve warm, preferably with fresh bread of your choice.

“A man of my spiritual intensity does not eat corpses.” ~George Bernard Shaw

Follow Maria on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Juicing: Concentrated nutrition!

As you all know, one of the reasons I went vegan was to improve my health. Although a vegan diet made me feel immediately wonderful morally, my exhaustion still hasn’t disappeared completely, as I had hoped. One thing I find really helpful for me is juicing. As a person with the challenge of chronic fatigue, unfortunately nothing really makes me feel energized, but when I juice, I do feel a slight boost physically and mentally. I notice a lot of other positive effects as well: my skin clears up, gets hydrated and glows, I slim down, my asthma and allergies disappear, old emotions come up to be healed, and a perpetual feeling of bliss ensues.

I learned all about juicing from the Juice Master himself, Jason Vale. I purchased his DVD and juice menu plan called “7 Pounds in 7 Days”. I have done the juice cleanse a few times now, but the last time, I felt such a positive impact on my health that I extended the cleanse to 14 days. At the end of it, my asthma and allergies were completely gone, my skin was looking its best, I lost 10 pounds, my tummy flattened out and I was feeling light physically and emotionally. I re-introduced solid food into my diet slowly after that, but kept juicing as part of my daily lifestyle.

One does not have to do a complete juice cleanse, i.e. live only on juice for days, rather, even having just one juice per day is beneficial to our health. You can make a juice or two in the morning before heading out, and conveniently store them in mason jars and they’ll be ready to guzzle later in the day when you get hungry!

Mason jars: one of the greatest inventions on earth!

Why is juicing so healthy? Juicing extracts all the living nutrients from the raw vegetables and fruits. We are therefore getting a concentrated form of nutrition in liquid format and in its totally natural, unadulterated state. It’s best to use organic produce when juicing. We are also getting a higher volume of these nutrients than we would normally consume if we were just eating one fruit as a snack or one serving of vegetables. Therefore, juicing is an optimal way of maximizing our nutrition. And: juicing is so beautiful and delicious!

The colors are gorgeous!

There are many juicers on the market, varying in price and capacity. The centrifugal juicers tend to be most common and affordable. If that’s all your budget will allow at the moment, they are fine juicers for your first purchase – good at juicing most fruits and vegetables. They have difficulty juicing certain thin greens like wheatgrass for example (specific juicers for wheatgrass exist!), but for most greens, they work well enough. Masticating juicers are better at extracting more juice from greens, so if you are ready to invest, go for one of those.

I’ve heard many people complain about the hassle of cleaning the juicer. Yes, it does require some effort, but it’s really no more trouble than washing plates and pots after a meal! A good trick to keep things easy is wash the juicer right away after juicing, even before you have your juice, so that the pulp doesn’t have time to dry and stick to the parts. A quick rinse and little scrubbing with a hard brush will do the job!

Juice recipes are readily available online or for purchase. Also, when you buy a juicer, a book of recipes usually comes with it. Recipes are not even necessary! It’s easy to freestyle with whatever fruits and vegetables you like and have available. Have fun experimenting! It’s usually good to have a base of an apple or two, or pineapple, and then add to that whatever other fruits and veggies you like! Remember that greens purify our cells and fruits nourish!

To get you started, here are a couple of ideas for you. I free-styled this one:

Sunset Delight

Makes 2 ½ cups juice

2 red apples

2 oranges, peeled

2 carrots

1 celery stalk

4 leaves of collard greens

1 small piece ginger (1 inch thick)

The following juice, I saw Jason Vale make in a video. He refers to it as a naturally sweet lemonade. I agree – it is like a delicious lemonade, but better. When he makes this juice, he peels the lemon and he only uses about half of it. I use the whole lemon and I leave the peel on because I really love lemony flavours. Try it both ways and see what you prefer. One of my all-time favorite recipes, I call it my “Sunshine in a Cup”. Enjoy, in joy and in health!

Sunshine in a Cup

Makes 1 cup juice

2 red or yellow apples

1 lemon

Sunshine in a cup!

 

“When diet is right medicine is not needed; when diet is wrong, medicine has no effect.” ~Ayurvedic proverb.

Follow Maria on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Tempeh burger with dijon, hummus, tomato, sprouts and a side of fries!

Everyone loves a good burger! With BBQ season in full-swing, vegans too have options for tasty burgers! Although there are actually many ways to make a delicious vegan burger, this week I will share with you the simplest recipe I know: a marinated tempeh patty ready to be BBQ’d, baked or sautéed on the stove.

Although most people know what tofu is, some of you have likely not heard of tempeh. Tempeh is made from soybeans, but unlike tofu, it is cultured and fermented. The fermentation process gives tempeh different nutritional characteristics than other soybean products: a higher protein content, more vitamins, minerals and fiber. So nutrient-dense, it is a protein staple in some parts of the world. Also, there are certain anti-nutrients in tofu which are not present in tempeh because the fermentation process reduces the phytic acid in soy. This therefore makes tempeh more digestible by the body and the minerals are more easily absorbed.

Tempeh has a bolder, nuttier flavor than tofu and is firmer in texture. Without proper preparation, you may not enjoy the flavor. This simple marinade recipe which I share with you this week makes a sensational tempeh patty. You can then dress it up any way you like, with a burger bun, or without! All condiments can be found in vegan format, even mayonnaise (called Vegenaise)! I really love to top mine with my healthy hummus, Dijon, tomato and sprouts.

All you have to do is cut the tempeh into your desired shape and size and marinate overnight in a bath of ingredients I list below. Thinner pieces will allow the marinade to seep in better so depending on the size of the tempeh slab you purchase, you may want to slice it in half lengthwise. This will allow the tempeh to absorb all the delicious flavors which we love in a burger. Once marinated, cook or bake it any way you like, and do what you do with burgers!

To make the burger experience complete: what better treat to have as a side dish than fries? So delicious! I make my fries in the oven, but they are so light and crispy that they are just as satisfying as their deep fried cousins! Follow the recipe below for these flavourful fries, throw a tempeh patty on the BBQ or burner, make a favorite salad, and you will have a vegan dinner fit for kings! Enjoy, in joy and in health!

 Home fries:

Ingredients:

Makes 4-5 servings

6 medium russet potatoes, washed and cut into wedges with peel on

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

½ teaspoon sea salt

1/3 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon oregano

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon paprika

3 tablespoons coconut oil

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 425˚F.
  2. Place potato wedges in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Let stand for 20 minutes.
  3. Rub coconut oil on baking sheet or glass casserole dish.
  4. Drain potatoes and pat dry with paper towels. Transfer potatoes to clean bowl.
  5. Add spices, salt and grapeseed oil. Toss to combine ingredients.  Arrange potato wedges in a single layer on cooking sheet
  6. Bakes potatoes for 25-30 minutes. Turn potatoes after 10-15 minutes.
  7. Serve immediately.

 

How to Marinate Tempeh:

This is a versatile and simple technique to marinate tempeh for any recipe. In a large class container, place tempeh (cut into shapes and sizes of your choice) and the ingredients which follow. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 hours prior to cooking.

2 gloves of garlic, minced

3 tablespoons olive OR grapeseed oil

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

3 tablespoons unsalted steak spice

1 teaspoon oregano

½ cup fresh parsley, chopped

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons wheat-free tamari

1 bay leaf

1 chopped onion (optional)

 

“I am not afraid; I was born to do this.” ~Joan of Arc

Follow Maria on Twitter and Facebook.

The Little Mary: Raw Vegan Dessert

There are 3 Marias in my immediate family: my grandmother, my younger cousin and me. We are named after our grandmother Maria, as is the custom in Italian families for the first born girl to take her grandmother’s name.Also typical is the shorter name “Mary” which family members and sometimes close friends use instead of “Maria.” Growing up, my younger cousin was “Little Mary” and I was “Big Mary” or amusingly “Bobby” because Mary and her sister could not pronounce “Big Mary” when they were little babes just learning how to speak. My family, therefore, still calls me “Big Mary,” “Mary” or “Bobby” – how cute!

When my cousin Mary heard about a challenge I created, which I call “Veganize This” (someone challenges me to render a favorite recipe vegan, and, if I succeed, I name the creation after him/her), she immediately jumped at the chance to have a vegan treat in her name. She asked me to create a raw chocolate cheesecake.

Ohhhh not easy at all – I tell you!  Any challenge that includes finding a cheese substitute is tricky (I don’t want to compromise a cheesy taste and texture). I must admit this dessert took several trials. I persevered and was determined. After several weeks of experimentation, astonishingly, The Little Mary passed the ultimate taste test by none other than Mary herself!

Happy Mary with her Little Mary: Cheers!

I had the pleasure of asking Mary about her opinion on the dessert and on a vegan diet in general.

1) What made you choose this particular dessert to be veganized?
“Two of my guilty pleasures are cheesecake and Nutella. I allow myself these treats on occasion, and when I do indulge, I prefer to eat dessert first, before the main meal! I wanted something with the cheese/chocolate combination, and the impression I get from a raw treat is that it is quick and easy to make.”

2) How do you feel about the veganized result?
“I’m delighted! I like the degree of sweetness and the texture. I like the layered effect and the fact that each layer is a surprise of flavours. I love surprises! I really love it!”

3) What are your thoughts on a vegan diet in general?
“As I have become more health conscious over the years, I’ve started learning more about veganism. There are a lot of myths associated with a vegan diet, some of which I too believed before I researched them myself. For example, people tend to assume that a vegan diet commonly lacks nutrition, especially protein, that it offers little variety, that it’s more expensive and just not practical. However, once I did a little reading, I realized that none of this is necessarily true. I also really appreciate all the micronutrients that are easily obtained in a vegan diet, most of which are completely lacking in common processed foods. Another important aspect for me is that a vegan diet is most often devoid of refined sugar, which is addictive and a toxin to the body.”

4) Does trying vegan dishes such as this one influence your choice of meals on a daily basis?
“Definitely. You are my vegan bible! Trying your recipes and reading your articles motivates me to make some vegan recipes of my own and incorporate more vegan meals in my diet. I really appreciate how you’ve shown me that vegan meals can be readily accessible, tasty and quick to prepare.”

There you have it folks. My cousin, Mary, a non-vegan experimenting with more vegan dishes is thrilled with The Little Mary. Now, you must try this perfect summertime dessert too!

Enjoy, in joy and in health!

Ingredients:
Makes 12-15 servings in small glasses, a little larger than shot glasses. Option to make larger (and fewer) servings if desired.

1 cup raw hazelnuts
½ cup non-dairy chocolate chips
15 dried godji berries
10 strawberries, thinly sliced
15 small fresh mint leaves
2 cups soft or silken tofu (500 grams)
1 large banana
1 cup raw cacao powder
½ cup raw agave nectar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cashew butter
1 tablespoon chicory coffee substitute
¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
¾ cup vegan cream cheese
¼ cup maple syrup
1/3 cup apple juice
2 teaspoons egg replacer
¼ teaspoon salt

Method:

1. To prepare the bottom layer, place hazelnuts in food processor and blend until powdery.
2. Scoop 1 ½ teaspoons of hazelnut powder into serving glasses to form first layer. Set remaining hazelnut powder aside for later use.
3. Prepare chocolate pudding to form second and fourth layers. Combine 1 cup tofu, banana, cacao powder, agave nectar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, cashew butter, coffee substitute, and almond milk in blender and blend until soft and creamy.
4. Scoop 2 teaspoons of pudding into serving glasses to form second layer. Set remaining pudding aside for fourth layer.
5. Scoop 1 teaspoon of vegan cream cheese overtop pudding to form third layer in serving glasses. Drizzle small amount of hazelnut powder to this layer, along with one slice of strawberry and 2-3 chocolate chips into each serving glass.
6. Scoop 1 teaspoon of pudding overtop cream cheese layer to form fourth layer. Add more pudding if opted for larger serving glass.
7. Place all serving glasses in refrigerator for one hour to set.
8. Prepare creamy topping for final layer. In food processor, combine 1 cup tofu, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Blend until soft and creamy. Set aside.
9. In a small pot, combine apple juice, salt and egg replacer and simmer on medium heat until mixture thickens. Combine with tofu mixture in a large bowl. Refrigerate for one hour to set.
10. Remove serving glasses and tofu mixture from refrigerator. Scoop 2 teaspoons of creamy tofu mixture into serving glasses to form final top layer. Add more of this mixture if opted for larger serving glasses.
11. Garnish each serving glass with a thin piece of strawberry, a sprinkling of hazelnut powder, one chocolate chip, one godji berry and 1-2 mint leaves.
12. Refrigerate for 2 hours and serve chilled.

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” ~William James


Follow Maria on Twitter and Facebook.  

La Mexicana – Tabbouleh with a Mexican Twist

I woke up yesterday thinking about Mexico and tabbouleh.

What do those two things have in common you ask? Ahhh, I had no idea either, but when I got to my fridge: it hit me!

I didn’t even have my breakfast banana yet when I opened my fridge that morning, but already I was thinking about lunch. I craved tabbouleh, the fresh and delicious traditional Arab salad commonly made with parsley and sometimes a little mint, bulgur, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil.

I hardly had any of those ingredients in my fridge. I did, however, have many of my favorite Mexican flavours: fresh cilantro, firm limes, a perfectly ripe avocado, green onion, ravishingly red cherry tomatoes, and of course plenty of garlic.

Oh joy! It hit me: this is what Mexico and tabbouleh have in common: a tabbouleh with a Mexican twist! Instead of parsley, I’ll use cilantro; instead of lemons, limes, instead of bulgur, quinoa, and I’ll add the avocado to reinforce the Mexican tastes! This must be what great chefs call: improvisation! OH YUM! Refreshing, healthy, mostly raw, beautiful – a perfect summer salad!

Flavours and Aromas of Mexico

Fresh cilantro is so healthy and tasty. It is a very powerful antioxidant, helping the body rid itself of harmful toxins, even heavy metals! Cilantro also aids in proper digestion and elimination, is an important anti-inflammatory and natural anti-bacterial. For your health and for your taste buds: please eat some cilantro!

Limes are gifts from nature. Packed with vitamin C and flavonoids, limes are excellent for glowing skin and to fight off infections. Like cilantro, lime promotes proper digestion and smooth elimination.

Raw garlic has so many health benefits, I would need a couple of pages to list them all. Most of us have already heard of the scientifically proven benefits of garlic, but to quickly summarize, raw garlic keeps the vampires away (haha – just checking to see  if you’re paying attention!), is a natural anti-bacterial and antibiotic, promotes cardiovascular health and fights cancer!

Last but not least, one of my favorite tastes of Mexico: the avocado – oh what perfection! Is there anything more delicious than a perfectly ripe avocado? Well, OK, there are many, many, many fruits just as delicious, but don’t let me digress! Avocados are so yummy that I feel compelled to kiss them before I eat them! Another fruit with health benefits up the wazoo!

Dear Avocado: I love you. Thank you for being you.

One forkful takes me back to my beloved Mexican beach, my feet in the sand, hearing the whispers of the ocean, being kissed by the salty air, feeling the soft breeze through my hair, and the sunshiny warmth on my skin. All this, La Mexicana allows me to experience, in addition to a refreshing taste explosion in my mouth and raw healthy boost to every cell in my body.

Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Try it and do something wonderful for your body, mind and soul! Enjoy, in joy and in health!

Ingredients:

½ cup quinoa, cooked and cooled (sprouted if desired)
3 cups fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 medium tomato, diced, or 7-8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 small avocado, chopped
5-6 green onions, finely chopped
½ cup lime juice, freshly squeezed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon chili flakes
¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
3 tablespoons hemp seeds

Method:

1. Combine all ingredients, except hemp seeds, in a large bowl. Toss.
2. Refrigerate for one hour.
3. Garnish with hemp seeds and serve chilled.

“The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men.” ~Alice Walker

 

So I hear that some of you are thinking about incorporating more vegan meals in your diet; others of you are even wondering whether you could become completely vegan. Let’s face it: change is scary and sometimes it just feels like too much effort!

However, I am here to help you! There is absolutely nothing that would give me greater pleasure than to help you become aware of truths that have been hidden from view.

“If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.” ~ Sir Paul McCartney

This week, not only do I have a yummy quinoa salad recipe for you (so perfect for summer picnics!), but I will also list 10 reasons why your inner voice telling you to eat more and more vegan meals is RIGHT ON!

Since human beings on average consume approximately 80 000 meals in a lifetime, and there are around 7 billion of us on earth, it is no wonder that what we eat not only impacts our own bodies, but the environment as a whole. Why is it important for our health, and for the health of the planet, to be vegan?

Here are 10 reasons:

1. We hear a lot about our “carbon footprint” these days. Our carbon footprint refers to the amount that our activities contribute to the production of carbon dioxide in the world, carbon dioxide being the main greenhouse gas. Hence, each and every one of us is contributing to global warming on a daily basis and what we eat is a huge part of this. By adopting a plant-based diet, we are dramatically lowering our impact on global warming. Did you know that the number one contributor to the production of greenhouse gases is the livestock industry? Most people believe that too many cars are the problem, however, enslaving the billions and billions of animals for food and all that is involved with these industries produces 18% of the global emissions of greenhouse gases, as compared to 13% produced by all means of transportation combined.

2. Animal-based protein, found in meats and dairy, is significantly linked to many serious diseases such as heart disease and various cancers. A vegan diet can even reverse diseases like diabetes and prostate cancer. Instead of popping pills which can have serious side-effects, just “let food be your medicine”.

3. Plant-based meals, even organic, are cheaper than animal-based meals. Vegetables, beans, whole grains, fresh fruits, when bought in season, locally whenever possible, are far less expensive than meats and cheeses. A vegan diet can save you money immediately!

4. Furthermore, a vegan diet will save you money in the long-run on all forms of healthcare. We are somehow paying for healthcare, whether it be directly with private healthcare or indirectly with ever-rising taxes to fund public healthcare systems. Also, when we are ill, we are so desirous to gain our health back (this I know!) that we spend a lot of money on alternative and complementary health services.

5. There is a greater variety of important nutrients to be found in meals which are plant-based. Typically, we get more fiber, vitamins and minerals, antioxidants from plant sources than animal sources. We also get plenty of protein, calcium and complex carbohydrates from plant sources. Moreover, plant-based food contains no cholesterol or unhealthy fats.

6. Plant-based diets reduce water waste and pollution.

7. Biodiversity is protected. Plant-based diets help preserve both aquatic and terrestrial wild-life and their natural habitats.

8. Plant-based diets reduce world hunger. Too many of the world’s limited resources are used to grow grains, corn and soy to feed livestock, when those resources could be used to feed people directly. So simple, it’s ridiculous!

9. All animal products are highly acidic. An acidic bodily environment promotes disease development. The more alkaline our diet, the healthier we are.

10. And last, but definitely not least, ethically, veganism is the only way to live with compassion for all beings! Vegan cooking is truly: cooking with amore! It is the only kind, responsible and fully conscious cuisine and way of life!

Convinced yet? OK, OK, how about you try this yummy vegan recipe (a complete protein by the way!) and then make up your mind! Enjoy, in joy and in health!

Quinoa Chia Delight Salad

Ingredients:
2 cups quinoa, cooked and cooled
1 1/2 cups fresh parsley, chopped
½ cup green onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup tomatoes, diced
2/3 cup lemon juice
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons flaxseed oil or ground flaxseed
¼ cup chia seeds
¼ cup raw sunflower seeds
¼ cup hemp seeds
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Method:
1. Add quinoa and 3 cups of water to a large pot and bring to a boil (1 ½ cups of water for every cup of quinoa). Simmer until all water is absorbed (about 10 minutes). Allow cooked quinoa time to cool – at least 2 hours.
2. Mix quinoa and all ingredients in a large bowl. Refrigerate for 1 hour and serve.

“I did not become a vegetarian for my health, I did it for the health of the chickens.” ~ Isaac Bashevis Singer

Follow Maria on Twitter and Facebook