from Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen by Ani Phyo

Coconut Breakfast Cakes
2 c whole flax seeds, or 3 c flax seed meal
2 tbsp liquid coconut oil
1/2 c agave or maple syrup
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 c water

Put flax meal, coconut oil, agave, salt, and water in a large bowl and mix well. Form four balls and flatten into a “pancake” shape, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.

To serve, top with Cashew Coconut Pudding (recipe follows) and fresh fruit.

Batter will keep for four to five days in the fridge. Makes 4 servings

Cashew Coconut Pudding
2 c cashews
1 1/2 c water
1/4 c pitted dates
1/2 shredded dried coconut or fresh coconut

Blend the cashews and water until smooth. Add the dates and coconut. Blend until smooth.

Will keep for three to four days in the fridge. Makes 4 servings

We recently had some friends visit who are pretty into raw food, so I was more than happy to bust out this cookbook in order to whip up a breakfast treat. I chose these two recipes because not only did I have all of the ingredients on hand, but Cleo has been totes gaga over cashews lately. And pancakes. She doesn’t seem to mind the other ingredients either.
We ended up making these the night before; I say we, because I put my guests to work forming the pancakes. They were huge! (the cakes, not the guests). We ended up making 5, and had plenty. So much actually, that none of us were able to finish our servings. Except for my husband, who has a hollow leg- he ate the biggest pancake, and probably the most pudding, before we even got up. He did have an early morning that he needed fuel for. Not that I’m complaining… The recipe for the pudding made enough for me to bring a bunch to share with my co-workers, several of whom are interested in raw food. I think they were pleasantly surprised (here’s the recipe, as promised, RF!)
I mostly followed the recipe… I might have added just a pinch extra salt (and it might have been divine) to the pancakes, and we chose to go with the maple syrup. Be sure that you measure out the coconut oil after you melt it (if it isn’t already melted in your cupboard…); the measurements are different when solid and liquid. And if your ingredients are cold, like mine were, the oil will solidify again. Mine did, since I keep my flax meal and seeds in the fridge, as well as the maple syrup. I just popped it in the warm oven for a few minutes to warm it up enough to melt it. You don’t want to cook it though! That wouldn’t be fitting of a raw food adventure at all.
This was a breakfast that I was really surprised by. I kind of thought I’d be hungry when I got to work, but I actually stayed full for most of the day. It was actually a little creepy how unhungry I was.

from The Conscious Cook by Tal Ronnen

Salad
1/4 lb green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
5 radishes, finely diced
Agave nectar
1/4 English cucumber, finely diced
12 red and yellow cherry tomatoes, quartered
Kernels from 2 ears raw sweet corn
1 avocado, diced
1 c baby arugula
1 shallot, minced
1 tsp minced fresh basil
1 tsp minced fresh oregano
Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Blanch the green beans in boiling water for 30 seconds, then chill in an ice bath. In the same boiling water, blanch the radishes for 20 seconds, then chill in an ice bath sweetened with a touch of agave nectar.

Place all of the ingredients except for the Vinaigrette and lemon juice in a large bowl. Drizzle with the Vinaigrette and toss to coat. Sprinkle the lemon juice on top just before serving. Makes 4 servings.

Vinaigrette
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp agave nectar
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the vinegar and agave nectar in a small bowl, then, whisking constantly, slowly pour in the oil in a thin stream. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

I love a hearty salad, and this cookbook really delivers when that’s what I call for. The recipe is prefaced with a note- that the salad can get soggy if it sits for a bit; but I did prepare it ahead of time, but waited until I was ready to serve it before I added the arugula, avocado and lemon juice. It traveled well, and our extended family loved it! The sweet corn is such a treat, and it’s so good this time of year, especially if you can get local veggies. I could see how kids would really enjoy this dish, but mine is still at the tender age where she’s skeptical of anything that is combined, mixed, or tossed. She might love each ingredient, but won’t trust me when I tell her she’ll LOVE this. Oh well, more for us.
I didn’t have white wine vinegar, so I used apple cider vinegar. Perfect! Other than that, I stuck to the recipe. I’ll have to make this salad at least once more before the corn disappears from the farm we like to go to.
Here’s Cleo helping to harvest some oregano. Hopefully her thumb is greener than mine:

Have you seen My Neighbor Totoro? I hope so. If not, please do. It’s the cutest movie EVER. Our daughter loves it, which pleases me greatly… because I’ve dreamed of throwing a Totoro themed birthday party since the time she was just a twinkle in our eyes.

Here are a few pictures of the simple Totoro-themed party that we threw for Cleo’s 2nd birthday party. Everything came together in the end very nicely, with a lot of help from grandparents and friends. We planned a late morning party, so we just had cake and coffee. It was really nice to have coffee talk with friends in the park before the day got too warm.

Look at the great cake that my friend Vince helped me make! Actually, this one I did by myself, but he came over and helped me make a trial run cake. The vegan “buttercream” frosting recipe (see below) that he came up with looked better than this one did, but it was so very tasty. I used a Dr. Oetker’s lemon cake mix, and instead of using eggs, I substituted 1 tablespoon flax meal mixed with 3 tablespoons warm water for each egg, which is turning out to be my favorite egg substitute. It came out really well! There’s also a layer of organic blueberry jam in there between the cake layers serving as the filling. One of our guests wondered why I decided to make a cake that wasn’t vegan. He looked pretty surprised that it actually was. And there was barely enough for all of the guests. Oops.

Vegan Buttercream Frosting
1 c Earth Balance margarine, at room temperature
3 c vegan confectioner’s sugar
1-3 tbsp soy milk
1 tsp vanilla (Vince suggested flavoring it with fresh grated ginger! It was really good, but didn’t play well with the cake flavors we had planned here)
food color

Using a hand mixer, beat the margarine until fluffy. Slowly add the sugar; it’ll be crumbly. Add a tablespoon of soy milk and mix, adding more if necessary. Add vanilla, mix more. If you need more liquid, by all means, add more, but slowly. If desired, add food color. Now get to decorating! Makes about 3 1/2 cups.

Soot Sprites are abundant in Totoro’s neighborhood.

I made about 40 of them, with fuzzy faux fur, felt for eyes affixed with embroidery thread. Very simple, too (see my instructions, below, to make your very own). Making them was a lot of fun, but seeing the looks on people’s faces when presented with one was even better.

To make the Soot Sprites, trace 5″ circles (coasters work really well as a pattern here), and cut out 2 pieces for each sprite. The eyes are patterned by a quarter, and then use embroidery thread to affix them in a star pattern to one of the faux fur pieces (if you’re into that. Dots would work too). After attaching the eyes, place the faux fur pieces right sides together, and tuck the furry ends in toward the middle of the sprite so that you don’t see any fur sticking out. Pin the pieces together. Stitch around the edges (if you use a sewing machine for this, you will want a bigger needle and a longer stitch length. And you’ll also want to dust it out really well after this project. If you’ve seen the movie, you know that Soot Sprites can be messy!), leaving about a half inch seam allowance. Be sure to leave a 2-inch opening! Turn the sprite right-side-out, and stuff with the stuffing of your choice. They would make really great bean bags, but I opted for stuffing. Light and fluffy! Hand stitch them up. Voila! A Soot Sprite is born!

Acorns!

Acorns and seeds play a part in Totoro too. Cleo’s grandmother was so generous with her time and made a bunch of these! They’re about 2 inches from end to end, and made with such care. She is a crafty lady, and I think she really enjoyed the challenge of working on something so small, using a new pattern, and making them just right. She made almost 30 of them, and they’re amazing. They still sit up on our bookshelf to be admired. Here is the pattern she ended up using. There are a LOT of cute things going on on that site. I might have to learn to knit. Again.

It wouldn’t be a party without treat bags…

And our young guests seemed to enjoy them greatly. They’re just basic paper gift bags, filled with bubbles, Soot Sprites, the fabulous knitted acorns, and some stickers. The Totoros are made from heavy duty scrap booking paper. I sketched my basic  Totoro shape on one, cut it out, and then traced it to make some clones. I kept it very basic. Less is more, and when you try to do details on a reproduction, it looks so much more… reproduced. I did the same with the Totoro tummy, and then used a hole punch to do the eyes. After gluing them all together, I just used a felt pen to put on the finishing touches and customize them with the guest’s name. Finally, tape the Totoro to the full treat bag, and you’re done!
Our adult guests didn’t go home empty handed though. The night before, I cut down some flowers I got in bunches at the grocery store and grouped them in half-pint mason jars. So cute! I chose jars that would fit into a car’s cup holder. I’d hate for our party favors be remembered for the mess they made and not for the cuteness of the event!

Thanks to all of the help that we had, I was able to arrive at the party site just half an hour before the party started to unload everything. I enlisted a few friends to help with the tablecloths on the picnic table, and to arrange the decorations on top of them. My parents brought a huge party pot of organic coffee from a local roaster and coffee house, and I set up a little coffee station with a selection of vegan creamers and sweeteners. This party was a true lesson in keeping things simple so as to truly enjoy the day.
Here’s one of my favorite moments from the party- Cleo walking with my dad. At first she was really wobbly while maneuvering the perimeter of the now-unused wading pool at the park. By the time she got halfway around, she was feeling pretty confident; by the time she’d lapped it, she wasn’t even thinking about it anymore. She’s growing up so fast!

Happy Birthday Cleo. Next year you can pick out your party theme. xoxo Mommy

from Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Homemade Gnocchi
2 lbs russet potatoes, washed and scrubbed
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch of well-rinsed spinach
1 1/2 to 3/4 c all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 400F.

Poke four or five holes all over the potatoes. Bake them (you don’t need a tray or foil, right on the oven rack is fine) for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size. Do a test after 45 minutes; they should be very tender (mine took closer to an hour). Use tongs to remove them; place on a cooling rack and let them cool completely. This could take half an hour.

Meanwhile, chop the spinach finely, and cook over medium heat in about 1/4 cup of water until it is completely wilted. Place in a strainer and press all the water out.

Remove the skins from the cooled potatoes and place them in a large mixing bowl. Add the olive oil and salt and mash very well. You don’t want to puree them, that will make the gnocchi sticky, just mash them until they have very few lumps. Fold the spinach in. Add the flour in handfuls and incorporate it into the potatoes. Once you’ve added half the flour you can turn the dough onto a floured countertop to work it there. Keep adding flour and lightly kneading the dough until a smooth, unsticky but not dry dough is formed.

Divide the dough into thirds and roll each portion into a rope that is about 1/2 inch thick. Use a pizza wheel or a knife to cut the ropes into 3/4-inch-long pieces. Now comes the fun part- flour your hands and use your thumb to roll each piece of gnocchi gently down the tines of a fork. Each piece should be able to do about half a roll before reaching the end of the fork so the final result should be that one side of the gnocchi has an indent from your thumb and one side has ridges from the fork.

At this point you can sprinkle with flour and freeze any gnocchi you aren’t using. To cook them immediately bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water liberally and cook the gnocchi in three batches. Within 2 minutes they should rise to the surface; let them cook just under a minute longer and remove them with a slotted spoon. Transfer them to a large plate so that hey aren’t putting any weight on each other, and sauce them as soon as you can. I like them with either a simple tomato sauce or sauteed briefly with pesto and veggies.
Serves 6-8

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto
1/2 c tightly packed sun-dried tomatoes
1 c water
1/4 c almonds
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
a few dashes fresh black pepper
1/4 c chopped fresh basil

Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a low boil, then turn the heat off and let soak for about 15 minutes, until soft.

Grid the almonds in a blender or food processor. Add the sun-dried tomatoes (with the water), garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and puree.

Transfer to a bowl and stir in the basil. Let sit for a few minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Makes about 1 1/2 cups

This was a really rewarding dinner for a day that I felt like challenging myself in the kitchen. Normally I don’t like something that’s so fussy, and I totally got frustrated with the tine-rolling segment (SO NOT THE FUN PART, ISA), but it was very much worth the while, especially when I was able to pull some out of the freezer a few weeks later for leftovers! I was a little uncertain about the texture of the dough and wondering when I should stop adding the flour, but I did pretty well with 1 3/4 cups of it. Kneading it was fun, and I felt like the spinach made my gnocchi a bit more festive, as well as healthy.
Let’s talk texture. Gnocchi isn’t for those who don’t like doughy things. These are SO DOUGHY, so toothy. So satisfying. I want to make all of the variations, but I try to save potatoes for special occasions- they just go down too easy. The texture of the pesto was a nice partner to the gnocchi- with a faint crunch of almondy goodness. Total perfection, this meal.

from Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

8 slices good, dark pumpernickel bread
8 tsp nonhydrogenated margarine
1 1/2 c sauerkraut
2 dill pickles, thinly sliced
1 avocado, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into 1/4-inch slices
1 pound tempeh, cut into four equal pieces, then cut through the middle so that you have eight thin squares

For the Marinade:
1/2 c white cooking wine (I just used regular white wine- Chardonnay to be specific. Then gave the rest of the bottle to my mom because I think it’s yucky stuff by itself…)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp Bragg Liquid Aminos or tamari
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, smashed

For the Dressing:
1/3 c Vegannaise
2 tbsp ketchup
juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp minced onion
3 tsp capers
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish (or equivalent amount chopped pickles)
pinch of cayenne

Prepare the tempeh:
Combine all the ingredients for the marinade. Add the tempeh and marinate for at least an hour, turning once.

Mix all the dressing ingredients and set aside.

When the tempeh has marinated for an hour, preheat a grill pan over high heat. Cook the slices on the grill for 4 minutes on one side, until dark grill lines have appeared, then use tongs to flip them over and cook on the other side for about 3 minutes.

Prepare the sammich:
Spread a teaspoon of margarine on each piece of bread. Heat a large skillet over moderate heat. Fry each piece of bread on the buttered side for 3 minutes, flip over and cook 1 minute more (it’s okay that the other side is dry).

Divide the sammich ingredients equally among four buttered-side-down fried bread slices. Smother in dressing, top each serving with another slice of fried bread, nonbuttered side down, cut in half, and serve. For that authentic Jewish deli look, stick a toothpick in each half. Makes 4 sammiches.

There’s a local franchise that makes a really similar sammich (isn’t it just so adorable that Isa refers to sandwiches as such, consistently? I think so too), and I saw this recipe and wondered if it would be as good. And it was! I am pretty new to pumpernickel, so that was different, but the sauce and the marinated tempeh are really close to the Cafe Yumm! version I love so much. I’m actually thinking it might be a good meal to share with my family when we go to the coast in a few weeks (vacation hurry up and get here!!!), because my dad always claims that he’s missing out when he eats vegan food. This might just cause him to quiet his sammich hole for just a minute. I’ll let you know.
I have to admit though, that I didn’t read the instructions very well for the sandwich construction. After making two sandwiches, but using all of the tempeh and dressing, I was wondering why the bread was so soggy, and why my tummy was so full so fast. OH HELLO DOUBLE STUFFED SAMMICH. So, expect your sandwich to be a bit thinner, a bit more manageable, as well as greater in quantity than TWO, if you actually follow the directions. I can assure you that it’s just as tasty either way. Promise.

Oh my. Would you look at all that vegan sushi?

We had a party a little while back. I have always wanted to learn to make sushi, and found a friend who was willing to teach me, and a few friends who were willing to eat my homework.

We started with a big pot of cooked brown rice (because it’s healthier than brown rice, of course, and gave it a really hearty flavor), as well as some tofu strips fried in a little bit of canola oil:

My teacher brought a fabulous selection of roasted veggies. Those eggplants were the best!

We also had radish sprouts and avocado, as well as some roasted broccoli and sauteed portabella mushrooms to roll with. I would have taken pictures of the rolling procedure so as to teach you too, but after making my first roll, I was absolutely smitten. I loved the challenge of making neat and tidy little concoctions. I love how well contained the sushi roll is. I felt I had a gift for it, and wouldn’t stop to give anybody else a turn. Luckily we had two little rolling stations set up, so others were able to make a few rolls beside me.

Here are a few of my favorites (basically anything with a radish sprout or avocado gets that title): Broccoli with red pepper, tofu, and radish sprouts. WIN!

One of our guests made miso soup! She thought she might have gone overboard with the nori, but I don’t think so. Seaweed is really good for you! And look at those little baby mushrooms.

This was one of the best nights of my life. Learning something new (that I felt I was actually pretty good at right off the bat), eating A TON of food made from scratch that’s really good for you, and making something beautiful; all things I really enjoy. And, with people that I love! It was a pretty small party, but there were no leftovers. That’s just how we roll. AH-HAHAHA!

You might remember that I’ve got an ongoing organization project going on in my house. One thing that had really been getting to me was my flour collection. It was contained in a smaller cupboard (we have no pantry, sigh), and was basically a pile of flours that look like this, but much bigger:

It’s not that I have a flour hoarding problem, (ok, maybe I do, but it’s nothing like my toiletry issue!), but I need a variety of them because I’m always making goodies to share with my sister, who can’t tolerate gluten. I would reach for fava/garbanzo flour and find that the bag has been punctured. I’d pull out my spelt flour and find that the clip had popped off in the shuffle, and now it was stale. Ugh! Finally, we inherited a mid-century buffet, and were granted some more space. I have a little pantry! Time to act. I went out to the local home and garden store, Down to Earth, where I buy adorable little dishes, and found some canning jars. I bought a pack of 12, and they gave me a bulk discount! I also bought some labels, so that I wouldn’t get my flours mixed up. I dumped each flour into a jar, which was a bit messy, and discovered that Cleo has a taste for buckwheat flour. By itself. Anyway, here are my labeled jars:

This project was really easy, but it made such a huge difference in how I approach baking. No longer do I have to gingerly sift through a pile of bags, hoping that I won’t make a huge mess when I rip it accidentally, and now it’s so much easier to see what I have on hand before I head out to the market. Before tucking them into the buffet, I lined them up on the windowsill for a pretty moment, and relished in their neatness.

Finally! Order has come to my flour collection. What a relief.

adapted from Supermarket Vegan by Donna Klein

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini or other white beans, rinsed and drained
1 (7.25-ounce) jar roasted red bell peppers, well drained
1 to 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 (10-inch) flour tortillas, preferably whole wheat
several handfuls of spinach
4 Gardein Chick’n Scallopini
4 tbsp Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds

In a food processor fitted with the knife blade, or in a blender, process the beans, red bell peppers, lemon juice, oil, garlic, salt, and black pepper until smooth and pureed. Transfer to a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate a minimum of 30 minutes, or overnight.

When it’s almost chow time, toss the Chick’ns onto a lightly greased nonstick skillet, cook the first side for a few minutes over medium heat, and flip over. Top each with a tablespoon of Daiya shreds, and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the “cheese” is melty. Remove from skillet and set on a plate with a paper towel to cool. Cut each into 1/2-inch strips.

Prepare the wraps by placing the tortillas on a flat work surface. Spread equal amounts (about 1/2 cup) of the bean mixture on each tortilla, leaving a 3/4-inch border all around. Place a handful of spinach leaves (or, just two leaves if you wanted to follow the original recipe… I figured the more greens, the merrier) in the center of each tortilla. Place the “cheesy” Chick’n strips on the spinach leaves, and tightly roll up each tortilla from the edge nearest you, tucking in the sides and leaves as you roll. Makes 6 servings.

I found this while looking for recipes for sandwiches- I’m already fantasizing about what to serve guests at our toddler’s birthday party in a few months. I was drawn in by the beans and roasted red peppers. This recipe is probably too close to what we served at last year’s party to make an appearance at this year’s, but I still had to make it. This was so easy to make (as are all of the recipes I’ve made so far out of this cookbook), and lent itself easily to adaptation. It would be really good with some basil leaves mixed in with the spinach leaves, especially if you tone down the lemon juice a bit (I used just over a single tablespoon and tasted it more than the garlic, which I refused to limit to 2 cloves…). This really would make a great nibble for a play date in the park. Come on sunny days! Let’s have more than one in a row. Because spreading your picnic blanket on wet grass? Not so much.

from The Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook by Cathe Olson

1 c chopped dried apricots
1 1/2 c boiling water
1/4 c maple syrup, brown rice syrup, or agave nectar
1/4 c oil
1 c apricot soak water
1/4 c orange juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c whole wheat pastry flour
1 c whole wheat flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 c wheat germ
1 c walnuts, chopped

Place apricots in heatproof bowl. Pour boiling water over apricots and let sit about 15 minutes. Drain apricots, reserving 1 cup of the soak water.

Preheat oven to 350F. Oil a loaf pan. Beat together sweetener, oil, apricot soak water, orange juice, and vanilla. In separate bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Stir in wheat germ. Stir in liquid ingredients until just mixed. Gently fold in apricots and nuts. Pour into prepared loaf pan. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, or until tester inserted in center of loaf comes out dry. Remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack. For added flavor and moistness, wrap loaf and let sit overnight. Makes 1 loaf

Here’s one for the health nut in you. The sugar addict in you might have some trouble with it though, as might the fat addict. This is a really good breakfast bread. Topped with coconut oil (a THICK layer, mind you), it’s a cozy way to get your day going, alongside a cup of coffee. I do recommend wrapping it though; it needs all the added moistness it can get. The chewiness of the apricot along with the soft crunch of the walnut is what I enjoyed most about this dense bread. The orange juice gives it a little touch of sweetness, though I’d definitely be disappointed if you served me this for dessert. Unless it had a big scoop of Coconut Bliss on top of it.

from Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

1 pound Brussels sprouts, washed and halved
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp coarse sea salt

Preheat oven to 400F.

Lay the Brussels sprouts on a rimmed baking sheet; douse with the olive oil. Roast for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, add the chopped garlic, and sprinkle with coarse sea salt, using tongs and toss to coat. Return to oven, roast for 5 more minutes. Before you remove the Brussels sprouts from the pan, rub them into the garlic, and, when you serve them, sprinkle them with whatever toasted garlic remains in the pan. Serves 6

This was one of THREE recipes I tried from this cookbook in one weekend. It was so simple, and so divine. That last step- the sprinkling of the toasted garlic? Genius. After the weekend of amazing eats that Isa provided the road map for, I just had to order her new cookbook, Appetite for Reduction. I have all of her other cookbooks, so I thought I didn’t need another one. BUT I DO. Because this woman is responsible for so many of our good meals, a few pounds I’ve gained. And maybe this book will help take a few off. But I doubt it, because I can’t control myself around good food.
If you don’t have any of her cookbooks, I’m telling you, you’re missing out. She’s never failed me. EVER.
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