Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Chai Mate Almond Latte

I am an unapologetic coffee drinker.  Not too much, but just enough - like one or two cups a day will keep me in good spirits.  Imagine my pleasure last fall in reading about a recent Harvard study linking coffee drinking to lower risk of depression in women.  Around the time when I had just given birth to my firstborn and was still active in THE CHURCH, a similar little ditty made all the headlines that linked coffee consumption to lower incidence of depression among stay-at-home-moms.  Yep - I jumped all over that one.

Well, I'm getting older now.  My digestion system is a little fickle and my mood can swing from calm to rage in less than 60.  It seems like a cruel joke that my daughter is entering puberty as I enter menopause.  There's a lot of hormonal shift going on at home.  I wonder if that really isn't the root of all the mother/daughter conflict spoken of during the teen years?  Or midlife crises among the men folk?  I digress.  Back to my favorite caffeine buzz...

Chai Mate Almond Latte

Lately, coffee isn't so much a favorite.  I sometimes feel jittery when I down my cup o'Joe.  Doesn't everyone?  If I drink it too late in the day, I'll lie awake all night.  Serves me right, I should've known better.  If I miss it in the morning, my head will pound relentlessly throughout the day.  That's all part of the love of coffee that I've put up with for years.  Isn't it the same for everyone?

Then Jinjee over at The Garden Diet suggested that I give it up.  WHAT?!!  But I really wanted to give this raw food thing a good honest try.  For those caffeine addicts, she suggested trying Yerba Mate.  It's got an impressive amount of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, so I tried it and I'm sold.  With just one or two cups, those dark clouds seem to be kept enough at bay, with no jitters, headaches or sleeplessness. 

My favorite way to drink mate is with some almond milk (best fresh) and Chai spices.  While I never thought I would go through the trouble of making my own almond milk, once I tried it, it's hard to drink the packaged stuff - it has no flavor.  It's really a synch to make and when practiced, takes little more than five minutes to whip up in the morning.

To make it, I will set aside a cup of almonds to soak in water the night before.  In the morning, I rinse them, throw them in the Vitamix with about 4 cups of water, some dates, honey or agave and a touch of vanilla.  Blend and strain through a nut milk bag or cheese cloth.  I save the pulp and dehydrate it to be used in other recipes.  Drink it right away and it will be frothy and creamy.  Pour some into your cup of mate and you've got a rich and creamy Chai Mate Almond Latte (and it will amuse your rhyming obsessed little ones like my 4-year-old who will spend lengthy car rides trying rhymes for just about every word you can imagine).

Fresh Almond Milk

Almond Milk

1 cup raw almonds
4 cups water
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
optional sweeteners - 4 dates or 2 tbsp agave or 2 tbsp honey
optional 2 tbsp coconut oil (this will make it separate when chilled, I add this when I'm serving friends and want to add something special)

Soak almonds 4-8 hours.  Rinse and blend with water, vanilla, salt, sweetener and coconut oil (if your going for decadence : ).  Strain through a nut bag.  Drink as is or add to coffee, tea, or mate for a creamy latte.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Sexy Raw Diet Or Why I Don't Dream of Cooking Like The Pioneer Woman Anymore

When I was little, I asked my big sister to call me "Fruits".

It's detox week on The Garden Diet.  Yesterday was all fruit including watermelon juice for breakfast, fruit salad for lunch and a fruit smoothie for dinner.  Yesterday was also a very regular day, which left me feeling a lot lighter and energetic.  Zing!

I love my Angel juicer.  That pulp is about as dry as saw dust.  No juice wasted!

 Today is all greens.  Green juice for breakfast, tossed greens for lunch and a green smoothie for dinner.

Kale, celery, cucumber, green apple, lemon and ginger.  Perfect.

 Again, very regular.  Much lighter and energetic already.  The scale shows it, too.  Down, down, down the needle is dropping.  I can't see the difference in the mirror and in most of my clothes.  But my husband is noticing, a lot.  In fact, it's been hard to keep his hands off of me (not that I'd want to) and that extra attention is just another little affirmation to continue making good changes.  Is it my body (which still looks the same to me), the extra energy, or the joy I feel at the end of a good day that he notices?  Probably the combination of all the above.  We're both enjoying the gifts of the program.

Mixed greens with avocado dressing for lunch.

I've never been much of a cook and every time I overcooked a $70 piece of dry aged steak I would be mortified and George would try hide his disappointed, pour on a ton of sauce, and pretend to eat it with pleasure.  It was then, around five years ago, that I googled "how to cook a steak" I discovered Ree Drummond's blog, The Pioneer Woman.   Chloe and I would stay up late laughing to tears at the latest antics of her dog, Charlie.  I poured over the homeschooling entries with envy until I built up enough gumption to pull my kid out of school to try it myself.  From the photography section, I learned a few good tricks to add to my arsenal of skills.  I did make that steak, pan fried in butter and salt, and George had no disappointment to hide that night!

I still get her daily feed in my inbox, but don't always take the time to read it.  My diet has changed a lot since then.  We extended our urban commitment by purchasing an overpriced city townhouse.  Our (somewhat aggressive 130 lb) dog found a new home.  And my homeschooling experiment ended when my daughter wanted to go back to school.  I will never be a country girl and my husband will never wear chaps.  I'm not even sure that I'll ever get a dog again, unless it's under 20 lbs.

It is still fun to check up on The Pioneer Woman every once in awhile, so I was thrilled to see clips of her new show a few months ago on Food Network.  Already having eliminated most dairy from my diet, and reduced the meat to just a rare taste every now and then, I didn't drool over her food the way I used to.  I've always thought she was a beautiful woman, still is, but now I notice that she wears a lot of the same kinds of clothes that I do, big flowing tunics that reach well past her bottom.  Her hair is long and worn close around her face.  Yeah, I know what she's doing.  I do that, too.  She refers frequently in her writing how the amount of cream and butter in her cooking relates to her love handles or flabby arms.  I thought (a little catty here), hmmm, maybe it's time to cut back on some of that butter.

One of the episodes show her preparing a big cowboy dinner of chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, and marinated tomatoes (that tomato recipe will please my family tonight).  That's a meal that my own husband would die for.  Then I watched her make the mashed potatoes with multiple sticks of butter and a brick of cream cheese.  She poured on the heavy cream and added more butter on top before baking.  Wow!  With all that saturated fat, that's literally a meal one can die for, and she hadn't even gotten to the chicken fried steak part.  I'm feeling all smug because we're not eating that way so much anymore.  Then I watched to the end of the episode when the table is set, a bunch of kids and cowboys come in for dinner, and her hunky husband comes over with a passionate embrace (or did he smack her on the ass?) thanking her for the wonderful meal.  I had chills.  I would cook that way every night if I could elicit that response from my husband.

Nah, not really.  As I reminisce about last night, I know I don't need to cook that way to elicit a rock'in hot passionate good response from my husband.

Good riddance butter fat.

Hello, sexy raw diet.

(PS:  I'm already feeling guilty for being catty.  Sorry, PW.)

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Listening Skills from a 4-Year-Old

My 4-year-old son often teaches me great lessons.  Today, he gave me a reminder to listen and communicate before jumping to conclusions.

Oh, how I love this boy.

Jasper, "Is your bottom so big, Mom?"

I lift an eyebrow, "Excuse me?"

He repeats earnestly, "Yes, Is your bottom so big?

Considering whether to lecture him I ask, "Well, I don't know.  What do you think?"

He's exasperated at this point.  "I just want to know, Is your bottom so big, Mom?"

Just before I'm going to teach him something... I sit down and decide to play along.  With a big smile (and big bottom, apparently), "Yes, baby.  Momma's bottom is sooooo big!!  Why?"

He climbs onto my lap, "That's great.  Then I can sit in your lap and snuggle.  Every.  Day."

Isn't it the truth that our children teach better lessons than we, ourselves, can give?

(I'm liking my big butt a little bit more, today.)

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Veggie Sushi

Last month I made the Nut Sushi from The Garden Diet menu.  It was filling and interesting, but not interesting enough to repeat it.  Just a little too nutty for me - which is great for many other dishes, but not to satisfy a sushi craving.  I Googled around a bit for a good rice replacement for raw sushi and most places recommend cauliflower.  I may try that yet, but I'm not in love with raw cauliflower, and when eating raw, it takes a lot of clever ingenuity to get a vegetable not to taste like itself.  I came across this video over at Renegade Health (super charming couple - their smiles and enthusiasm are contagious) that threw in a suggestion using celery root, or celeriac.  So, I bought one.  Kind of homely looking, huh?

Celeriac.  The inspiration for Jabba the Hutt?

I peeled off a generous layer with a paring knife, chunked it up, and ran it through the food processor.  It tasted raw and a little starchy, so I threw in the meat of a young coconut and processed it together.  Then it was divine and sticky enough like sushi rice.  For kicks, I added a bit of hot sesame oil (probably not raw), which was a little more kick than I wanted so I skipped out on adding any ginger.  My friend tried it later, and said I need to add some rice vinegar - next time.

Celery Root & Young Coconut

I assembled the rest of the fillers, sprouts, avocado, carrots and cucumber.  Curious what the texture would be like, I also threw in some kelp noodles.  It didn't add much interest, so I probably wouldn't bother next time.

Fill it.

With a sheet of raw sushi nori on a bamboo mat, I filled half the sheet with the celeriac-coconut mixture.  Across the middle of the filling add the veggies.

Roll it.

If you haven't done this before, there are a gazillion youTube demo's to help.  I didn't have a bamboo mat the first time I tried this and a sheet of plastic wrap worked just as good (and easier to clean up). 

Pat it. 

Wet the end edge of the nori with water and smooth down to seal.

Slice it.  And eat.

I made a quick dipping sauce with Tamari, vinegar, and a dab of agave.  Yum.

For next time, I'll skip the sesame oil and add a bit of rice vinegar to the celeriac-coconut mixture.  Also, I found my fillings missing something... I may add some wasabi and ginger, ye olde sushi standards, or mix up a spicy cashew cream sauce to drizzle throughout. 

Raw Vegan Veggie Sushi
Celery root
Meat of young coconut
Sesame Oil (to taste, I used about 1 tsp)
Raw Sushi Nori