Whipped Coconut Cream

with mixed berries

Makes 1 1/2 C

You may be wondering why I didn’t call my blog The Coconut Gourmet since I seem to use coconut in so many of my recipes.  I do so because it’s such a wonderful substitute to regular milk, which I can’t really consume right now.  It’s full of good fats, it’s rich, it’s sweet; to read more about the virtues of coconut milk please see Banana Coconut smoothie!  The surprising thing about this cream is that it tastes much more like actual dairy cream and not so much like coconut.

For this recipe, I’d like to talk about kudzu, what I consider the secret ingredient in this lusciousness.  Kudzu is a plant native to Asia but grows rampant in the southern U.S.  It is a member of the same family as beans and peas and in Traditional Chinese Medicine has been used to “vent pathogens and pathogenic influences”.¹  It is commonly used to treat colds, fevers, digestive issues, stiff neck and shoulders and the best one, hangovers!  It is also said to prevent rashes and clears skin.  It is alkalizing in nature, so it’s a great go-to after a day/night of overindulging of any kind.  Good timing, huh?!

I use kudzu often as a thickener in my sauces, ice cream, pastries and alone in a jell-o type concoction for more medicinal purposes.  Sounds like I should get that one up here soon!

You’ll need:

1 can coconut milk (whole fat), refrigerated

1 t kudzu powder

2 T coconut water

1 T maple crystals

1 t vanilla extract

To make:

1. Remove coconut milk from fridge.  When opening, scoop the creme that is on top into a bowl, leaving coconut water behind.  Reserve coconut water.

2. Make a slurry with the kudzu and 2 T coconut water and add to the creme.  Add maple crystals and vanilla.

3. With an electric hand mixer on high, beat the creme until nice and thick and creamy and dreamy.

4. Enjoy on almost anything…or alone!

P.S. It will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days in an airtight container and it will get thicker.

¹http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/learn/kudzu.php

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Holy Cow, Veggie Burger!

Makes 6 burgers

You may be wondering how I might have the audacity to put a veggie “burger” on the blog after not too long ago singing the virtues of the grass-fed burger.  I wouldn’t blame you.  Though they both share the same “burger” name, they really shouldn’t.  Nothing can compare to or replace a grass-fed burger and this veggie burger has no intentions of doing that.  This veggie burger has its own attitude and quite confidently stands alone.

It took me a good 7 years before finding and perfecting this beauty.  I was so sick of the Boca Burger and others like it.  It always seemed unfair to me that just because I was vegetarian, it meant that for Memorial Day Weekend, Fourth of July or any other summer BBQ, I’d have to eat mediocrely while my omnivore friends feasted on some real, good, most likely whole food.

This veggie burger is for you, my vegetarian friends.  It’s real, it’s good and it’s whole.  No TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein) here, thank you.

And for my omnivore/flexitarian friends, it’s for you, too.  Trust me, you’ll enjoy it in all it’s veggie-ness glory.

What makes this such a substantial “burger” is chickpeas.  Chickpeas should be a staple in your pantry.  This versatile bean holds up well in stews, burgers, pastes/dips, soups, etc.  Not surprisingly, they’re super healthy for you, too.  The insoluble fiber (a boatload of it, specifically 12.5 grams/cup which is 50% of the daily recommended value) does wonders for our digestive tract.  They flush toxins from the body and leave behind some short chain fatty acids that energize the colon and leave it functioning even better.¹  That translates into reduced colon cancer risk.  They have a great supply of unique antioxidants that mean all good things for our cardiovascular system.  They’re a super source of protein and they regulate blood sugar and cholesterol.

See, I told you these are for everyone.  (For my vegan friends, please scroll to end of recipe.)

Have a great weekend everyone!

You’ll need:

1 1/2 C cooked chickpeas (about 1/2 cup dried chickpeas)

1/2 C pecans, roughly chopped and toasted

1/4 C sunflower seeds, toasted

1/2 C parsley, rough chop

1/2 onion, diced (about 1/4 C)

1 carrot, shredded (about 1/4 C)

1 egg, beaten

1/2 t sea salt

1/4 t cumin

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2-3 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or more for frying)

To make:

1. Place all ingredients in a food processor and whiz until pretty smooth in texture.  Refrigerate mixture for 15-30 minutes to let it set before making the patties.

2. Heat olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat.  Cook each burger for about 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown.  Be careful when flipping burgers over, because they are a bit delicate.

3. Serve and dress however you love your burgers!  (I put this one on a multi-grain roll with herbed mayo, micro greens, avocado and sweet potato fries:)

4. Enjoy!

For my vegan friends:  Apologies that this is almost, but not quite there.  I never tried a vegan version because I enjoyed getting the extra protein and fat from the egg.  Plus, it’s such a great binder.  Anyway, I hate to leave you out of the party so check out this recipe.  I’m dying to try it, too.  Next time!

¹http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=58

Curry Chicken Salad

Serves 4

Adapted from The Cancer Fighting Kitchen

My husband’s current obsession, besides our daughter’s belly laugh, is curry.  He seems to be leaning more towards the Thai curries but he’s happy with any curry really.  Curry is a mystery.  And that’s just because it means so many things to so many people in so many places.  Even in Japan, a common lunch was curry rice which I always thought surprising since curry isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Japanese cuisine.

There is the curry leaf, which until recently I didn’t even know existed.  My mother-in-law planted it one year and the strong aroma quickly took over her herb garden.  It is used quite commonly in India and imparts a distinct curry taste, the original I guess!  The more well known is curry powder; a blend of varying spices that mimic the flavor of the curry leaf.  Curries are unique to each family and region, much like German towns each have their own delicious microbrew.  It’s one of the more amazing things about food.  A dash of this here and a bit of that there and you’ve got a completely new dish.  It’s beautiful and it keeps us and our tastebuds always wanting more.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the role of Ayurveda in this spice.  Ayurveda is a traditional medicine practiced in India for over 5,000 years.  It recognizes 6 tastes; sweet, salty, sour, astringent, pungent and bitter and they’re all found in curry powder.  Under Ayurvedic principles, eating all 6 flavors in one meal is both balancing and satiating.  If you feel balanced after a meal, you’re not likely to go searching for dessert (sweet) or any other flavor.  You’ll feel completely satisfied.  If you haven’t enjoyed an Ayurvedic meal, I highly recommend it, if only for the experience and then you can decide for yourself.

The superstar in curry is turmeric and I’m glad to finally get to write about this spice.  Turmeric is pretty ridiculous when it comes to its anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial powers.  Turmeric is used to heal many conditions, one of which is cancer.  According to Rebecca Katz in The Cancer Fighting Kitchen, when eaten with a cruciferous veg (cauliflower, broccoli, kale, etc.) the curcumin present in turmeric has been shown to reduce the growth of prostate tumors as well as to keep tumors from spreading to other parts of the body.  It is used to heal wounds and is good for conditions such as arthritis.  It’s also a wonderful digestive aid.  And, it’s one of the highest known sources of beta-carotene.  Move over carrots!  Or better yet, sprinkle some of this spice on some roasted carrots!  Hmmm, sounds like another dish in the making.

You’ll need:

1 lb roasted chicken (I used legs and thighs), shredded

1 C seedless red grapes, halved

1 stalk celery, sliced

2 scallions, thinly sliced

1/2 C cilantro, chopped

2 t fresh ginger, grated

1/2 t sea salt (or more to taste)

1 T curry powder

1 t lemon zest + 1 t fresh squeezed lemon juice

6 oz. Greek yogurt

To make:

1. Combine the chicken and the grapes and set aside.

2. Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.  Add chicken and grapes and mix well until chicken is thoroughly dressed.  Let it sit for 15 minutes in the fridge to let the flavors mingle and blend:)

3. Serve over a crisp bed of greens such as romaine lettuce or stuffed into pita bread:)

4. Enjoy!

*Vegetarian option: Substituting extra-firm tofu for the chicken is a great vegetarian option.  I would cook the tofu as in this recipe, for a bit more added flavor, crunch and aesthetic, but it’s definitely not necessary.  Enjoy!

Fluffy Spelt and Quinoa Pancakes

with mixed berries

Makes 9 pancakes

I usually prefer savory breakfasts over sweet ones.  I grew up eating rice and beans as my first meal of the day and it’s still my favorite breakfast.  However, once in a while I get the craving for pancakes.  Unfortunately I learned the hard way that regular, all purpose white flour pancakes make me angry and irritable immediately after eating them.  I know how crazy that sounds and I still chose to share it with you, but I do so only because it’s absolutely true!  Gone are the days when I was able to enjoy a good ol’ American breakfast in a diner.  I can’t say I miss those days too much because I feel SO good now.  Anyway, this craving has resulted in a lot of experimenting.  This is the first version of the experiments.  In the coming weeks I’ll post the gluten-free pancakes which are as delish as these are.

Spelt is an ancient cousin to wheat.  It flourished in the Middle Eastern Mediterranean over 9,000 years ago.  It is far less processed that its modern counterparts and offers a wider array of nutrients, too.  Spelt’s fiber content helps to reduce overall and the unhealthy LDL cholesterol.  As a result, it also offers protection against atherosclerosis.  It is also a good source of B12, manganese, copper, niacin and thiamin.  “People with a range of health issues, including digestive problems, arthritis, Lyme’s disease, migraines, behavioral issues, skin irritations, irritable bowel syndrome, and others report that they feel better eating spelt rather than common wheat.”¹ Spelt is easier to digest than modern hybrids of wheat.  This is because it is water soluble and it breaks down in heat and with mixing.  Common wheat is the opposite in that it isn’t water soluble and it gets “stronger” the more you mix.  That’s why you knead and knead and knead bread dough, because you’re developing the gluten.

Spelt flour is still not suitable for anyone with Celiac or with high sensitivity to gluten.  It is however, a great alternative to the ubiquitous wheat.  Rivalry runs deep in this family.  Just make sure spelt wins most of the battles.

You’ll need:

1 C spelt flour

½ C quinoa flour

3 ½ t baking powder

1 T maple sugar (optional)

Pinch of sea salt

1 1/2  cup whole milk*

1 egg

3 T coconut oil (or butter, melted) + more for cooking

To make:

1. In a large bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, maple sugar and sea salt well.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together milk, egg and coconut oil (or melted butter)

3. Make a well in the center of flour mixture bowl and gradually pour in milk mixture, whisking gently until incorporated and smooth.

4. Heat a lightly oiled griddle (or frying pan) over medium heat. Pour the batter, in ¼ cup measurements, onto griddle and cook until golden brown on each side. Before flipping pancake over, you’ll see little bubbles form in the batter.  When they pop, it’s ready to be flipped over.  Please resist the urge to flatten your pancake!

5. Serve hot with maple syrup or jam or fresh fruit.

6. Enjoy!

*Whole milk can be substituted for buttermilk (homemade recipe coming soon) or even almond milk.

¹http://www.ecomall.com/greenshopping/benefitsofspelt.htm

Lentil and Rice Salad

Serves 6 (or good for lunch all week!)

Dear Lentils,

You must know how much I love you since  I always have at least 3 of you (red, brown and Le Puy) fully stocked in my pantry.   You are a superstar legume because you’re so easy to cook, so delicious and really so good for my health.  This time I decided to make a salad with you.  This is the kind of dish I will prepare with you at the beginning of the week and will have in my fridge until it finishes. You guarantee me a good lunch when I don’t have much time to put anything together.  You also guarantee that I won’t go for the default lunch, the sandwich, which while not bad can add up to a lot of gluten by the end of the week.  For variations I top you beauties with avocado (of course) or mix with salad greens.  If I’ve got a plantain in the kitchen, I’ll throw that in the oven and have that as a side.  Whatever it is, little lentil, you’re the star of this show.

So what makes you the nutrition powerhouse that you are?  Well, you’re endowed with some pretty special powers.  Your fiber content, both soluble and insoluble, is through the roof.  I know this is good for my digestive system as well as my heart.  Because of your fiber content, you’re also a great blood sugar regulator.  Then, somehow in that little round bean, you also harbor magnesium which is great for the cardiovascular system because you keep calcium in check and the veins free and clear from any blockages.  As a vegetarian I relied on you often for your iron and protein levels. And, throughout my pregnancy, I kept coming back because of all that essential folate I needed.  All this and you’re not high in fat or calories.  You’re awesome, lentils.  Oh, and apparently eating you is good for the Earth!  (Click here to find out how.)

I’ll be back to make more with you, but for now I’ll enjoy you in this delish salad.

Thanks again, lentils.

Love,

Nathalie

You’ll need:

1 C long grain brown rice, soaked overnight in 2C water + 1T lemon juice

1 T extra-virgin olive oil

1 C Le Puy Lentils, rinsed

1 1″ piece kombu

1 bay leaf

1 t sea salt

2 carrots, grated

2 scallions, finely chopped

1/2 C flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

2 T mint, finely chopped

For the dressing:

1 t cumin seeds, toasted

1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 C champagne vinegar (or apple cider vinegar would be lovely, too)

1/4 C fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 T lemon zest (from an organic lemon please)

Sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

To make:

1. Get the rice going first.  Place rice and water in a saucepan with a pinch of salt and 1 T olive oil.   Place on high heat until it reaches a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for about 4o minutes.  Let cool.

2. Place rinsed lentils in a pot with about 3 cups of water, kombu and bay leaf and cook over medium heat, partially covered, for about 20 minutes or until lentils are tender.  Discard kombu and bay leaf and let cool.

3. While the rice and lentils are cooking, combine all the ingredients for the dressing and whisk well.

4. In a large bowl, add rice and lentils and combine well before adding the carrots, scallions, parsley and mint.  Once all is combined well, add dressing and stir to coat.

5. Refrigerate for at least an hour to let the flavors marry and settle.  They will love each other and you will love it all the more!

6. Enjoy!

Whole Food Baby

Imitation is amazing! She was more interested in the bowl than anything else this time.

It was not an easy decision to make.  But, in the end, tradition won over.  Last week we all had poached eggs for breakfast.  Claire dined solely on the (not so runny) yolk with the tiniest pinch of salt.  It was my first food as well as my mother’s and grandmother’s.  I figured there was a reason it was passed down the generations.  After some reading, especially on the Weston A. Price site , I learned exactly why. Before I get there, I have to emphasize just how difficult it is to NOT do what a doctor suggests, especially when it concerns your baby. Even though cereals are still widely prescribed as the best first food, for some reason it didn’t feel right.  Especially if it was coming out of a box!  Yet, mom after mom, health professional after health professional suggested it or did it themselves.  Some started with orange vegetables which was a close 2nd for us.  In any case, I’m not interested in being right or wrong or clever or different.  I’m just interested in what’s best for my baby.

I know whole foods are best.  I know this through my own experience with food and my body.  My body was chronically unbalanced and slowly it began affecting different systems.  I needed to heal and I needed to regain balance.  Food was my first step in that journey, a step that was critical to my getting pregnant in the first place.  Naturally, eating real, organic, whole foods was a priority for me.  I experienced the myriad effects of positive changes in my diet.  Yes, whole foods are best.  So, as much as was possible, Claire Berlin has been a whole food baby since she was conceived.

So why eggs and why not cereal?

It seems babies are well equipped with the digestive goods to effectively digest protein and fats, such as pepsin, an enzyme that breaks down protein and hydrochloric acid which also aids in the process¹.  They also have a special enzyme for absorbing cholesterol².  Cholesterol is essential in the production of hormones and brain cells.  What babies don’t have is amylase which is the enzyme necessary to digest carbohydrates.  (They do produce lactase which digests the lactose in mother’s milk.)  This is the science behind our choice.  It’s reassuring.  Still, that egg yolk was my, my mom’s and my grandmother’s first food was reason enough to let it be our daughter’s first taste, too.

All that thought and discussion that went into our choice and really there are dozens of wonderful first foods.  Just keep baby’s delicate digestive system in mind and there really is no wrong answer, as long as you’re feeding baby real, whole food.  There have been some fascinating studies on the subject.  My favorite is the Clara Davis experiment.  In this study, Clara Davis showed that babies really are so much wiser than we think and are able to make food choices that best suit them.  And, their palettes are varied and sophisticated!  We need not think that babies and kids need a different menu of “kids’ foods”. They should eat what adults eat, eventually!  (In most countries I’ve visited, there is no such thing as a kids’ menu.)

Food at this age is merely an introduction as the baby’s main nutrition will still come from mother’s milk or formula.  Baby probably won’t get more than a teaspoon of food in at each sitting during these first few weeks.  Still, that was the most exciting part about Claire Berlin starting to eat food.  Up until now, I had been producing her only food, a miracle I am in awe of daily.  Now she’ll be having her first bites of different textures and flavors, exploring her world in new ways again.  As we’ve been witnessing her personality unfold, now we will be able to witness the baby gourmet unfold.  We’ll get to see how her tastebuds develop and what she’ll love and what she won’t.  We’ll get to see how her relationship to food develops and how our values and ideas about food, health, the Earth and our impact on it change and grow as she does.

For now though we’ll just enjoy the firsts, the funny faces and the messes!

Is the parenting journey ever not amazing?!

Oh the places we found egg yolk! But with that smile, who cares!

¹http://www.westonaprice.org/childrens-health/nourishing-a-growing-baby

² Nina Planck, “Real Food for Mother and Baby”

Another good source/good reading is KellyMom.

Simple Spring Minestrone

Yields 6 servings

I was in a bit of bind a few days ago when it came time for dinner.  My daughter had a doctor’s appointment and then her/our very first play date.  Usually dinner is on the stove by 9am, just in case the day escapes me, like this day did.  So, we got home and I opened the fridge and let my right brain win the battle.  My left brain knew I needed to boost immunity (for my daughter as well) and I often think of soup when I think of boosting immunity.  But the left brain makes making soup complicated, so enter the right brain.

As long as you have mire poix (onions, carrots and celery) in the fridge you’re good to go.  I took those out along with the fennel and parsley and got to cutting.  Instead of making 1/4″ dice for the mire poix (yes, I love to practice my knife skills) I chose bigger more decorative cuts since these would be the stars of the soup.  Read on to see how this improvised soup came to life.

There are many variations of this Italian soup, but one thing is constant:  tomatoes.  Tomatoes are now famous for their abundance of the anti-oxidant lycopene.  However, they are crazy abundant in MANY anti-oxidants, including the more common Vitamin C, Vitamin E and beta carotene.  They’re also off the charts when it comes to their phytonutrient content.  Tomatoes are stellar performers when it comes to our cardiovascular health; they have been linked to reduced heart disease risk, lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.  And they have anti-carcinogenic properties!  Wow, tomato!  (There is such a thing as too much of a good thing however, so before you OD on them, make sure you eat them in a balanced way, i.e. cooked and raw and with other foods and varying spices and herbs.)

Oh, and yes I am aware this is the second minestrone I put up on these pages, but it is just such a simple and delicious soup that can be adapted for every season.  Trust me, this one should be a staple.

What I had:

2-3 T extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, diced (about 1/2″)

2 medium carrots, chopped (about 1/2″ rounds)

2 celery stalks, cut on bias (about 1/4″)

1 small fennel, diced (about 1/4″)

1/2 t dried oregano

1 15oz can of whole tomatoes with juices (I used half of a San Marzano can), diced

1/2 C short grain brown rice, rinsed

1 veggie bouillon, (no salt added)

1 1″ piece of kombu

6 C water (or if using veg stock, omit the bouillon)

a handful of parsley, roughly chopped

Parmigiano Reggiano, shaved or grated

Sea salt, to taste

How I made it:

1.  Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add onions and a pinch of salt and cook for 5 minutes until tender.  Add carrots, celery and oregano and cook for 5-7 more minutes until very fragrant and tender.

2.  Add tomatoes with juices and then add rice.  Let cook and simmer together for a few minutes just to let the flavors get acquainted.  Add bouillon and water and partially cover.  Cook for about 30-40 minutes until the rice is done and soup is a bit thicker in texture.

3. To serve, ladle soup into bowls and top with shaved Parmigiano and parsley.  Serve with some country bread.  (Of course not all that bread in pic above was for me!)

4. Enjoy, enjoy!