Thursday, November 19, 2015

Farro Stuffing For Your Thanksgiving Menu

Farro is an ancient grain with a lower gluten content.

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Farro, an Ancient Grain
I like grains that are a bit chewy, like barley, spelt, wheat berries, and farro. Farro is emmer wheat, an ancient strain of hard wheat. And like other ancient grains, like Einkorn, it's got a lower gluten content than modern wheat although it is still not suitable for those of you who have Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. But for people like my husband who has a slight sensitivity to wheat, this fills the bill. It's also great for those of you who would rather eat a whole grain stuffing rather than one made from heavily processed bread.

Farro comes in pearled, semi-pearled, and whole. The semi-pearled and whole has more fiber and bran but it takes longer to cook. 

If you are cooking and serving this in a casserole dish, you do not need any binders but if you are using this as a stuffing, you might need to use a beaten egg or flax egg to make it a bit firmer and hold it together.

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Farro Stuffing
Vegan, Dairy Free
[makes 6 servings]

Requires an 8"x8" casserole dish
Instant Pot Pressure Cooker for making farro (optional)

1 cup dry farro
1/2 to 1 whole Rapunzel vegetable bouillon cube*
Boiling water
1 1/2 tablespoons Earth Balance buttery spread plus some for baking dish
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 to 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning, or to taste
1/4 black pepper
1/4 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 cups grated butternut squash
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

* depending on if you are using the Instant pot to make the farro.

Prepare the farro. 
Using the Instant Pot pressure cooker, dissolve the whole Rapunzel bouillon cube in 2 1/2 cups of boiling water. Set aside.
Using the "saute" function, toast the farro in the Instant Pot, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off. Add the water with the dissolved bouillon cube to the farro. Set for 7 minutes. When done, let the pressure come down naturally. Test for doneness. If necessary, cook longer. 

If you don't have a pressure cooker, cook the farro according to directions in salted water.  Set aside.
Dissolve 1/2 of the bouillon cube in 1/2 cup of boiling water. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease an 8"x8" casserole dish with Earth Balance.

Melt 1/2 tablespoon of Earth Balance, on medium-low heat, in a large pan or 5-quart Dutch oven. Add the onion, celery, poultry seasoning, and black pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until they release their liquids, about 5 minutes. Add the butternut squash and cook until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. 

Stir in a tablespoon of Earth Balance. After it melts, add the cooked farro and fresh parsley and enough of the 1/2 cup of water with the dissolved bouillon cube to get the desired consistency. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary. There should be enough salt from the bouillon cube.

Place the farro mixture in a prepared casserole dish, cover, and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and serve.

Per serving: 187 calories, 4 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 6 g protein, 31 g carbohydrates, 5 g dietary fiber, and 395 mg sodium (using the entire bouillon cube).

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For more Thanksgiving recipes and menu ideas, download my ebook, Health Begins in the Kitchen: Delicious and Easy Vegan Recipes and Seasonal Food Plan.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Fuju Persimmon And Pomegranate Relish
Perfect For Thanksgiving!

This simple and colorful side dish is vegan and gluten free.

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Getting the Menu Together
Thanksgiving is only 2 weeks away so I'm finalizing my menu. I've got a full house this year so I'm trying to pick recipes that are delicious, simple, and that can either be prepped or made ahead. 

Since my persimmon tree finally blessed me with over 4 dozen fuyu persimmons, I will definitely serve them in at least one dish. They pair beautifully with pomegranates, so I'm thinking of making this simple raw vegan relish. 

Persimmons and pomegranates pair
beautifully and reflect the colors of fall.

A lot of people avoid pomegranates because they think they are difficult to clean. I know I avoided them for years until I figured out how to clean them. It's really pretty simple with the trick being that you have to do it with the fruit submerged in a bowl of water. Check out my post on How To Clean a Pomegranate

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Fuju Persimmon and Pomegranate Relish
Raw Vegan, Gluten and Dairy Fee
[makes 8 (1/4-cup) servings

2 cups pomegranate arils
2 persimmons, finely diced (2 cups)
1 jalalpeno, finely diced (optional)
1/2 cup chopped pecans, walnuts, or almonds*
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice

* make sure you ask ahead if any of your guests have a nut allergy.

Toss all ingredients together and serve. It can also be stirred into freshly made cranberry sauce.

Per serving (with pecans): 114 calories, 5.5 g total fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 69 mg omega-3 and 1,456 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 2 g protein, 17 g carbohydrates, 4 g dietary fiber, and 2 mg sodium.

Per serving (without nuts): 67 calories, 1 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 2 mg omega-3 and 51 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 1 g protein, 16 g carbohydrates, 3 g dietary fiber, and 2 mg sodium.

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For more Thanksgiving recipes and menu ideas, download my ebook, Health Begins in the Kitchen: Delicious and Easy Vegan Recipes and Seasonal Food Plan.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Creamy Asian Cabbage Salad With Black Sesame Seeds Featuring "Just Mayo" From Beyond Eggs

Raw cabbage is inexpensive, delicious and healthy!
And it's only 53 calories per serving!

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Hampton Creek's Egg Replacer
Whether you eat eggs or not, there's something interesting brewing in the food industry. Hampton Creek, a fast-growing food company, is trying to develop food that is eco-friendly, compassionate, and healthy. And, of course, delicious - something many vegan food products are not. Their first target is to replace the egg.

They haven't come out will a product that will make scrambled eggs yet, although they are supposedly quite close, but they have developed a pretty delicious mayo substitute called "Just Mayo." 

Just Mayo comes in four flavors:
Original, Chipotle, Garlic, and Sriracha.

I'm not a big mayo eater but now and then you need a little bit for a creamy dressing like the one I'll share with you today. I'm also not terribly fond of vegan mayo because it doesn't have the taste or texture of real mayonnaise but this product really does. It's not that I totally exclude eggs from my diet. I'm lucky enough to have several friends who raise the happiest chickens on the planet. But when you buy regular mayonnaise, you can bet that the chickens that produce those eggs are from industrial farms and I don't like to support companies like that. 

What's in Just Mayo?
The ingredients include expeller-pressed non-GMO canola oil, while vinegar, and 2% or less of the following: organic sugar, salt, pea protein, spices, modified food starch, lemon juice concentrate, fruit and vegetable juice (color), and calcium disodium EDTA to preserve freshness. 

1 tablespoon provides:
90 calories
10 g total fat
1 g saturated fat (no trans fat)
Zero g of cholesterol 
80 mg sodium
Zero g carbohydrates, fiber, sugar, and protein

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My Favorite Cabbage Salad
There's a Japanese restaurant nearby that has the best cabbage salad. It's big and it's meant to share with the table but every time I go there, I eat an entire bowl or two of it. The last time I was there, I came home determined to make it myself. I think my recipe is a bit lighter (more vinegar, less mayo), but it's pretty darn close to what they serve at the restaurant. I'm excited to use Just Mayo as the base.

Besides being delicious, raw cabbage is extremely healthy to eat. First of all, it's a cruciferous vegetable which can help prevent cancers such as bladder, colon, and prostate but only if it's eaten raw or lightly cooked. Plus, it's a great source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, folate, potassium and manganese. It's also a good source of vitamin A, B6, thiamin, calcium, iron and magnesium. All this for one of the least expensive veggies you can find!

Creamy Asian Cabbage Salad with Black Sesame Seeds
Vegan, Gluten and Dairy Free
(makes 1/2 cup dressing)

Ingredients for the dressing
1/4 cup Just Mayo
1/4 cup Marukan organic seasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon pressed or grated fresh garlic
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds plus some for sprinkling

For the salad
1 to 2 cups very thinly sliced cabbage per person

To make the dressing, place the Just Mayo in a small bowl. Slowly stir in the rice vinegar and then the ginger, garlic and 2 teaspoons of the sesame seeds. I don't think it needs any salt but if you do, add a little pinch. There's already some in the mayo.

Place the cabbage in a large bowl and dress with the desired amount of dressing. To keep the calories low, start with 1 tablespoon of dressing per 1 1/2 to 2 cups of cabbage. Add more if needed. Sprinkle with a few extra black sesame seeds. Serve with chop sticks.

Per tablespoon of dressing: 53 calories, 5 g total fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 g protein, 1.5 g carbohydrates, 0 g dietary fiber, and 160 mg sodium. 

Per 1 1/2 cups of cabbage: 18 calories, 0 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g protein, 3 g carbohydrates, 1 g dietary fiber, and 9 mg sodium.

If you enjoyed this recipe, check out my eBook, Health Begins in the Kitchen.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Interested In Medical Marijuana?
Read Cannabis Pharmacy by Michael Backes

A guidebook for those interested
in medical marijuana.

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Medical Marijuana
As of this writing, medical marijuana is legal in 23 states and in Washington DC. Each state has its own laws about how much usable marijuana you can possess and how many plants you can grow. I'm sure a year from now, this number will be higher and hopefully it will also be decriminalized by the Federal Government sooner than later. Living in Sebastopol, California, where our ex-mayor started the medical marijuana clinic, medical marijuana is quite commonplace. However, it's extremely difficult to find good information from qualified doctors with regard to how to use it, how much to use, and what strain to use for a particular medical condition. Michael Backes, in his book Cannabis Pharmacy, fills the gap with an excellent guide for both patients and physicians on the uses of cannabis as medicine.

Historical Context
Cannabis has a long and remarkable history which Backes covers in the first chapter. Many of the reservations people have about cannabis stems from the fact that it's illegal as far as the federal government is concerned. But it's interesting to know that as far back as 4,700 years ago, cannabis was considered a very important herbal remedy by the Chinese Emperor Shen-Nung. It makes you wonder why we are still debating this.

The Cannabis Plant
Even if you "inhaled" in college, you may not know a lot about the actual cannabis plant and the 700 plus chemical compounds such as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD (cannabidiol), various terpenoids, and others compounds that work together as a whole plant to provide various medical benefits. Backes gives a basic overview about the plant itself, how the medicinally active resin resides in the trichomes in the female plants, and how these compounds work in our body's endocannabinoid system. 

Using Medical Cannabis
There are many ways to use medical marijuana other than smoking a joint. Backes explains your many options which prepares you for the mind-blowing number of products you will find at your medical marijuana clinic.  

An important chapter in the guide is how to deliver and dose medical marijuana. Backes writes, "the most appropriate medical approach is the one that provides the most precise dose, for the desired duration, in the appropriate form, with the fewest side effects." He discusses various delivery methods from smoking with a vaporizer to consuming edibles and tinctures, using oils for cooking, using topical creams and more with the advantages and drawbacks for each. He even includes recipes for making an alcohol tincture, making the Indian cannabis drink Bhang, and how to make infused cannabis oil for cooking.

And unlike the pro-marijuana advocates that claim cannabis cures everything without any ill effects, Backes is upfront about the adverse side effects of its use. 

Varieties of Medical Cannabis
This is one of the most important sections in the book. Just as you wouldn't take a statin to treat an infection, you wouldn't take just any strain of cannabis to treat a specific condition. Variations in the amounts and ratios of THC to CBD as well as variation of terpene content make each variety of cannabis a different medicine. Backes takes you through a number of varieties from Afghan to White Widow, their medical uses and characteristics. When you walk into a medical marijuana clinic, you will find dozens of jars containing different strains of cannabis. They will have different tastes, aromas, potencies of CBD vs THC, duration of effects, amount of psychoactivity, amount of analgesic effect, whether it relaxes your muscles, stimulates or sedates. This chapter spells all that out for you along with other interesting notes and medical uses. For example, Backes writes about the strain LA Confidential:

 "LA Confidential is a great pain medicine, as good as any cannabis variety gets. Patients report that it is also effective for calming flare-ups of Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Low doses of LA Con are used to treat anxiety and slightly higher doses can help agoraphobia. It is also used for seizure disorders and migraines, because of its high micron and linalool content."

Medical Uses of Cannabis
I thought this was also an extremely helpful section of the book. Backes discusses many ailments where cannabis has been used or has shown to be effective for relieving symptoms and also discusses those where cannabis has not been as effective or where more research needs to be done. For each ailment he provides:
A description of the disease
How effective cannabis is for treating it (and he's quite honest about this one, not claiming that it works for everything). 
The mechanism by which cannabis helps the condition.
Information on the effective dosage.
Best methods of ingestion.
Specific, popular varieties of cannabis that have been used to treat the condition.

He reviews over two dozen specific ailments including anxiety disorders, cancer, gastrointestinal disorders, HIV/AIDS, insomnia and sleep disorders, migraine headaches, multiple sclerosis, neuropathy, pain, skin conditions, stress and more.

It may be a while before medical cannabis is available to everyone and it will be an even longer time before there will be sufficient integrative doctors who will know how to prescribe it to you. So if you have a medical condition that you think might be helped by using medical cannabis and you want to learn more about it, this is a great place to start. 

Watch Michael Backes' excellent uTube video for more information.

Monday, October 19, 2015

How Can A Tree Have Both Fuju And Hachiya Persimmons?

Fuju (smooth pointy ones on the left) and Hachiya (the one with ridges on the right) persimmons on the same branch?

The Persimmon Saga Continues
Last Christmas, when I posted my recipe for Chia Hachiya Vegan Eggnog, I told you the story about my persimmon tree.

In 2010 I planted what I thought was a fuyu persimmon tree. It didn't grow very well and, in fact, it took 4 long years to get ONE lousy persimmon. And it wasn't even the right persimmon. It was a hachiya. I was pretty upset with the nursery for selling me the wrong tree, especially when I lost 4 years of growing time. 

I went and bought another fuyu tree. I know it will take years to get anything but I'm determined to grow fuyu persimmons, one of my favorite fruits. 

This year the tree is doing quite well. In fact I can count about 36 persimmons beginning to ripen! To my surprise, they are large fuyu persimmons. All except for a few at the end of a single branch. That branch has both types of persimmons.

Can Someone Explain This?
I've had fruit trees in the past that had several types of fruits grafted onto a single rootstock. Once I had a tree with lemons oranges, and pomelos. But they were on their own unique branches. I have no idea how a single branch could have two types of fruit.

So this is not a blog post but a plea for someone to help explain this. So if you are a master gardener or botanist out there who can shed some light on this, I would greatly appreciate it.

Meanwhile I anxiously await the ripening of my persimmons!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Make Your Own Hot Sauce

Turn late season peppers into hot sauce!

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When Garden Peppers Turn Red
At the end of the season, peppers are finally ripening and turning red. In fact, you may notice that your entire jalapeño plant has gone from green to red as well as your smaller, hotter peppers such as hidalgos and serranos. If you don't have any in your garden, I'm sure there will be plenty at your farmer's market or grocery store. Whether you are growing them or buying them, it's a great time to whip up some hot sauce for later use.

Spice up your Health
If your stomach can tolerate the heat, hot peppers have some real health advantages. Capsaicinoids, the substance that give peppers their heat, have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They are good for the heart and can also increase your metabolism and help your body burn fat. 

Here's a pretty simple recipe to use up those red peppers in your garden. Doug and I used jalapeños and hidalgo peppers because that's what we grew but you can substitute other too. Different peppers will give you different flavors and levels of heat. We left the seeds in when we made this but if you want a milder sauce, you can remove them. 

Jalapeños (large) and hidalgo (small) peppers

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Hot Sauce
Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes about 3 cups]

Requires a high speed blender

12 ounces red jalapeño peppers
4 ounces hidalgo or serrano peppers
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 small onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
3 cups water
1 1/4 cups white distilled vinegar

Wearing gloves in a very well ventilated room, thinly slice the peppers.

In a 5-quart enamel-coated dutch oven, or other non-reactive pot, heat the oil to medium-high heat and add the peppers, onions, garlic and salt. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. 

Add water to the pot and cook the peppers until they are soft and the water is greatly reduced but not completely dry.

Add water to pot
Cook down until the liquid is reduced.

Let the mixture cool in the pan.

Place in a high speed blender with the vinegar. Blend until smooth. If the sauce is too thick, add a little more vinegar. Adjust salt if needed.

Pour into jars or bottles. Store in the refrigerator. It will last for several months or more.

Use to spice up any dish. You can also add it to mayo for a milder dipping sauce.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Low-Calorie, Vegan Banana-Nut Apple Muffins
Made With Ancient Einkorn Wheat

These delicious muffins are only 180 calories each!

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Einkorn Wheat
Because of my husband's slight allergic reaction to wheat, we often bake with Einkorn wheat or eat Einkorn pasta. It's not gluten free but because it's an ancient form of wheat (and hasn't been hybridized to increase the gluten content like modern wheat has), it is generally tolerated by many people who are sensitive to gluten. 

This recipe is made with
organic Einkorn all-purpose flour.

This morning I was in the mood for a muffin. I'm trying to lose a few pounds and wanted to keep the calories low so I used very little sugar and less oil than most recipes.  I also wanted to use one of the beautiful Fuji apples we just harvested from our tree. So here's what we came up with.

This recipe is specifically for Einkorn flour. Modern wheat absorbs more water than Einkorn so it can not be substituted one for one.

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Einkorn Banana-Nut Apple Muffins 
Vegan, Dairy Free, Low Gluten
[makes 12 muffins]

Requires a muffin pan.
Best with an electric hand mixer

1/4 cup olive oil plus some for greasing pan
2 tablespoon ground flaxseeds
4 tablespoons room temperature water
2 tablespoons organic cane sugar
1/3 cup organic apple sauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large very ripe bananas, mashed
2 cups Einkorn all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon stevia powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon plus some for dusting
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup English walnuts, chopped
1 apple, peeled and diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease the muffin tins.

In a small cup, make flax eggs by beating the ground flaxseeds with water. Beat well and set aside until they get gooey.

In a large bowl, add oil, sugar, applesauce and vanilla and beat with an electric hand mixer until creamy. Add mashed bananas and flax eggs and beat again until well combined.

In a medium bowl, mix Einkorn flour, stevia, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to the wet ingredients and beat with an electric hand mixer until well combined.

Fold in walnuts and diced apples. Using an ice cream scoop (or large spoon), fill the greased muffin tins with the batter. Sprinkle a little cinnamon on each muffin.

Ready for baking

Bake until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the muffins, about 20 to 23 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for about 5 minutes. 

After baking

Remove muffins from the pan and serve warm with low-calorie jam or vegan cream cheese.

Per muffin: 180 calories, 9 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 756 mg omega-3 and 2,522 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 4 g protein, 23 g carbohydrates, 3 g dietary fiber, and 186 mg sodium.