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Friday, March 28, 2014

Update: Where Have I Been?

Hi lovely readers,

I have had a family emergency come up that is taking most of my attention right now. I so wish I could blog and develop more recipes because it's a little piece of happiness for me, but I am just not able to give myself fully to my blog at this time and I don't want to post any old thing just to get something up. I also had plans to send out a newsletter but that has to be put on hold as well. Family comes first! I will be back, of course, but I didn't want to just stop blogging out of nowhere without giving you all an explanation.

My way of living is all about holistic health - nourishing the body, mind and soul to achieve optimal health and happiness - and there is no greater test of my commitment to that lifestyle than right now. In times of stress, sadness and frustration, it is so easy to fall into those unhealthy traps like eating junk food, not exercising, withdrawing, and just flat out neglecting yourself. Like a flight attendant says, you must always put your oxygen mask on first before putting on someone else's. Life's struggles have the ability to sharpen us and make us more resilient, conscious, appreciative, empathetic, and kind... but only if we choose for it to affect us that way.

Anyway, I will be back soon with more delicious healthy vegan recipes and some awesome products! I hope you are all well and taking care of yourselves.

With love & care,
Claire

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Chickpea, Walnut & Currant Salad Sandwich (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free)



When I was a child, two of my mom's specialty lunches were her egg salad sandwich and chicken salad sandwich (and grilled cheese - omg, insanely delicious. I may have a weeee bit more trouble coming up with an alternative for that one but don't rule it out just yet!). Needless to say, they tasted oh so good. Since I don't eat animals anymore, I found myself kind of missing those types of sandwiches. I've seen others use chickpeas as a base for a sandwich filling and it inspired me to create a healthy and cruelty-free egg salad and chicken salad alternative. And boy oh boy did I hit the mark with this one! It undoubtedly satisfied my cravings. This salad is very reminiscent of my old favorites thanks to the creaminess of the chickpeas, crunch of the celery and subtle sweetness of the currants. The seasonings bring it all together providing a slight tangy flavor. You can enjoy it on gluten-free bread or on a tortilla or even on its own, which is just as delightful. And hey, it's officially spring now... this chickpea salad would be a perfect addition to a picnic lunch, just saying. ;-)

I would feel neglectful if I didn't mention the atrocities of modern egg factory farming. This is all truth. There is no grey area. No conflicting evidence. In America, hens are so tightly confined in battery cages stacked from floor to ceiling that they cannot even stretch their wings. These filthy, crowded conditions are a breeding ground for bacteria and thus food poisoning in the form of salmonella, which is commonly found in spent-hen meat. Chickens are also debeaked (without anesthesia) so that they don't peck each other to death as a result of the stressful environment they live in. The 100 million chickens per year that are no longer productive are slaughtered and then used for pet food, compost and school lunches (yes, you read that correctly). Every year, 200 million male chicks are ground up alive since they cannot lay eggs and do not grow fast enough to be sold for meat. This is not humane. Don't be fooled, cage-free eggs are not produced cruelty-free either. Many cage-free conditions are just as bad.

There are many egg substitutes out there, such as flaxseeds or chia seeds mixed with water, tofu, Ener-G egg replacer, bananas, and applesauce. In the case of an egg salad sub, chickpeas (a.k.a garbanzo beans) are a wonderful option because of their creaminess & mild flavor. In addition, they are loaded with fiber (1 cup = 12.5 grams of fiber), protein (1 cup = 15 grams of protein), iron, magnesium, folate, and manganese.

*I will be sending out my first free newsletter in May! It'll be packed with soul-boosters, a simple & utterly delicious mango cream dessert recipe. You don't want to miss it!  The sign-up form is on the top right of the home page of my blog.




Chickpea, Walnut & Currant Salad Sandwich

Yield: 3 servings

INGREDIENTS
• 1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed *You can also use white beans like cannellini beans
• 2/3 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped/processed*
• 1 garlic clove, minced* 
• 2 stalks celery, finely chopped 
• 3 Tbs cilantro, finely chopped
• 1/4 cup currants (or chopped raisins or 2 pitted & chopped dates)
• 2 Tbs soy-free vegenaise
• 4 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 1 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
• 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
• Black pepper, to taste
Gluten-free bread or tortilla (optional)

DIRECTIONS
























*TIP: If using a food processor to chop the walnuts (which is much easier & quicker than manually chopping), first place the whole garlic clove in the processor to mince. Remove minced garlic with a spoon and set aside. Then, add the walnuts and process for a few seconds until crumbly. Be sure not to over process. The nuts should looked like they've been roughly chopped as shown in the picture above.

1. In a large mixing bowl, mash the chickpeas with a fork, leaving some pieces un-mashed.
2. Add in the rest of the ingredients (other than the bread, if using) and mix well.
3. Spoon desired amount of the chickpea salad mixture on the bread or the tortilla or enjoy on its own. Garnish with cilantro.

"Imagine living in a cage in the dark, unable to move, day after day. The suffering of today's American farm animals is almost beyond belief. They don't have a choice, but you do, and their lives depend on it." Casey Affleck

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Green Mango Coconut Smoothie (Vegan, Refined Sugar-Free)

If you follow me on Instagram, you saw that I posted a picture yesterday with a caption that said I was developing a St. Patrick's Day cookie recipe and was trying to make an icing with natural green coloring and that you'd find out today if the plant-based cooking gods were in my corner. Well, clearly, they were not in my corner, and they in fact deserted me and left me high and dry. 

The cookies came out great, the icing however, did not translate so well. I realize my idea (which I thought was brilliant initially) of an avocado coconut cream icing is a bit far-fetched, but it actually tasted fine mixed with some vanilla extract and raw coconut nectar. The problem was that avocado spoils quickly and certainly cannot be left at room temperature. Sure, you could refrigerate the icing and ice the cookie when ready to be eaten, but the cold icing and room temperature cookie just wasn't appealing. Sigh. I do feel better knowing I wasn't the only crazy one who thought about using avocado to make icing because with a quick Google search, I found that another blogger used it on a cake, which I still think is genius.

Anyway, enough about my failed attempt. That's the name of the game when you try anything. At least I was brave enough to try! What is it that they say, not trying is the real mistake, or something like that. Actually, I came across a better quote by Elbert Hubbard related to my experience, "constant effort and frequent mistakes are the stepping stones of genius." Ah, well if that's the case, I will pencil "make mistakes" into my calendar everyday. ;-)

So, since I didn't have a St. Patrick's Day cookie recipe to share, I thought I'd whip up an easy green smoothie that can be enjoyed for breakfast on the 17th. It's coconut-y, green-y, creamy, dreamy... basically, it is straight up delicious! The green mango coconut smoothie is also rich in beta-carotene (a pre-cursor to vitamin A), vitamins C & K, fiber, healthy fats (MCFAs), potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium, zinc, and manganese. One of my very first posts was my green smoothie recipe, which I still have 5-6 times a week for breakfast. It has remained a constant in my life because it has improved my health profoundly. I call it my liquid gold.

The reason I prefer blending over juicing is because blending keeps the fiber from the fruit and vegetables intact. Juicing provides us with the juice of the fruits and vegetables but the fiber is taken out, which is vital for digestive health. I also like the thickness of a smoothie over a thin juice, but that's just personal preference. Don't get me wrong, juicing is great. The juice from the plant cells give your body an immediate boost and transforms your blood very quickly. Celery is particularly wonderful to juice. Carrots, on the other hand, are high glycemic when juiced so be careful there. Some people can't handle a great deal of fiber so juicing is a great option for them, though I suggest integrating a combination of blending and juicing to fit your needs or what your body tells you it needs, rather.

Don't forget to sign up for my monthly newsletter! You can find the sign up form to the right on my blog home page. I have an exclusive delicious dessert recipe I'll be sharing, a few of the best tips I know for living a happy life, and information on my holistic health coaching business! Don't miss out. :-)

Green Coconut Smoothie

YIELD: 1 serving (approx. 20 oz.)

INGREDIENTS
• 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
• 1 cup packed spinach
• 1/2 green apple, cored and chopped
• 1 large banana
• 3/4 cup frozen mango chunks
• 1 tsp spirulina (optional)
• Unsweetened shredded coconut, for topping (optional)
• Goji berries, for topping (optional - you can buy them at a health food store)

DIRECTIONS
1. In a high-speed blender (I use a Vitamix - find a discount here), add the first six ingredients and blend until silky smooth. Pour into a glass and top with shredded coconut and goji berries, if desired.

"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep." Scott Adams

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Mini Sweet Potato Pizzas with Pesto & Roasted Asparagus (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, Grain-Free)

We meet again! What kind of lover would I be if I didn't keep sweet potatoes in my menu rotation? I've gone on and on about my food love affair with them in these 2 posts: sweet potato & kale soup and sweet potato fries... so give those recipes a whirl if you love sweet potatoes as much as I do!

I came across a recipe from another plant-based food blogger called Almonds & Avocados where she used pesto on sweet potato rounds to make a sort-of pizza and I thought it was genius. Why bother with making a pizza crust when you can just use sweet potatoes?! I could just imagine the fusion of flavor between the sweetness of the sweet potato and the savory from the pesto and toppings and had to try it out for myself. I was in love at first bite. I've made them several times since and have come up with my own pesto recipe. This is yet another example of a win-win vegan meal - delicious and nutritious... er win-win-win... delicious, nutritious and cruelty-free. ;-) These mini pizzas are packed with the vitamins A, C, E, & K, potassium, calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, fiber, protein, and healthy fats. You will go crazy for these and they're so easy to make and filling, too.

I served them with a side of asparagus as shown in the picture above. I used one bunch of asparagus, snapped off the ends, washed and dried them, then drizzled them with oil and a few generous pinches of sea salt and black pepper and roasted them at 400 degrees with the sweet potato rounds. They were the perfect sidekick! 


Don't forget to sign up for my monthly newsletter! I am going to start out sending it once a month and will eventually work up to twice a month. The first one will be sent out in a few weeks. You can find the sign up form on the right side of my blog. I will be including recipes exclusive to the newsletter that you won't find on my blog and you won't want to miss this first one - believe me! It's a super simple, creamy and incredibly tasty dessert, not to mention the perfect treat to welcome us into spring. Honestly, it's one of the best things I've ever tasted. I realize that's a big statement, but it's true. And it's rare for me to feel that strongly about anything. I joked on Twitter that I almost cried it was so good. LOL. 





Mini Sweet Potato Pizzas with Pesto
Adapted from this recipe

YIELD: 14-16 mini sweet potato pizzas or 2 servings; approx. 1/2 cup pesto

INGREDIENTS
For the sweet potato:
• 1 large sweet potato
• 1 Tbs unrefined coconut oil, melted
• 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
• 1 tsp arrowroot powder (optional but helps make them crispy on the outside)

For the pesto:

• 1 large garlic clove, peeled
• 1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves
• 1/2 cup tightly packed spinach leaves
• 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
• 1/4 cup hulled hemp seeds or sunflower seeds
• 1.5 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
• 1 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 1/4 tsp fine sea salt

Topping suggestions: olives, chopped basil or cilantro, sun-dried tomatoes, bell pepper, red onion, avocado

DIRECTIONS

1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Cut the sweet potato into 1/4-1/2-inch rounds, leaving the skin on. In a large bowl, combine the sweet potato rounds, coconut oil, sea salt, and arrowroot powder (if using) and mix well, until the arrowroot powder is no longer visible. Place them on a baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes, flipping once halfway through. They're done when lightly browned and crispy.
3. In the meantime, prepare the pesto. First, place the garlic clove in the processor and process for a few seconds until minced. Put the remaining ingredients in and process until smooth. Then, chop the desired topping ingredients.
4. Once the sweet potato rounds are done baking, spread desired amount of pesto on the top of the sweet potato rounds and add toppings. Store leftover pesto in an air container in the fridge for up to 5 days. *You can use the leftover pesto on bread or crackers or mixed in with pasta, brown rice or quinoa. 

I'd love to see your variation of a sweet potato pizza! Send me a picture on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. xoxo.

"A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions." Unknown
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