Saturday, December 17, 2011

Live Lasagna!

Eating a raw diet has amazing health benefits. It is a lifestyle change that could benefit so many different people. If you are sick with a chronic disease, if you are tired more often than not, if you are carrying too much fat and want to lose weight, or if you want to feel some mental clarity, switching to a raw food diet could absolutely be your answer.

The raw food diet has helped anyone who wants healthy levels of blood cholesterol, healthy blood sugar levels, pain-free joints, clear skin and shiny hair, less cellulite and fat, swift weight-loss, immune system boost, sound sleep, higher levels of energy, increased libido, improving all around mood and much more.

To break this down a bit, for food to be considered raw or living, it must be unprocessed, raw plant foods that have never be exposed to temperatures over 115°F. Raw foodists believe that foods cooked above this temperature have lost much of their nutritional value and are less healthy or even harmful to the body. Raw or living foods have natural enzymes, which are essential in building proteins and rebuilding the body. Heating these nutritious foods kills the natural enzymes, leaving toxins behind in the body. It’s believed that these raw foods all have their own natural healing life force, and when we cook them and change their composition this force is depleted. Why would we do this then?

A lot of people think that eating raw simply includes eating salads and fruits. However, with some creativity it can really be fun and more complex than that. Here is a recipe for "Live Lasagna" which will knock your socks off. It's a bit time consuming, as all parts are made from scratch, but the final product will not disappoint, I promise you that.

(adapted from "You Won't Believe it's Vegan!")

Zucchini Noodles
2 medium-size squash
2 medium-size zucchini
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp EVOO
1/2 tsp sea salt

Cut the ends off the squash, and then cut then in half width-wise. Slice as thinly as possible lengthwise using a knife or mandoline, if you have one. Using a mandoline makes the process much quicker and easier.

Mix together the lemon juice, olive oil and sea salt and pour over the squash strips and set aside.

Raw Cashew Cheese
1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for 20 minutes, drained & rinsed
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp sea salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 tsp Nama Shoyu (raw, unpasteurized soy sauce) - optional

In a food processor blend the cashews and 1/2 cup of filtered water until creamy. Add the garlic and nutritional yeast and blend well. Add lemon juice, sea salt, punch of fresh ground black pepper and Nama Shoyu (if using) and mix well. This will last up to 4 to 5 days in the refrigerator and can be used for so many other things (as a dip, for collard wraps, etc.)

Live Tomato Sauce
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in 3/4 cup warm (not hot) water for 20 minutes
1 tomato, seeded & chopped
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning OR any Italian spices such as: basil, oregano, sage, garlic
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup EVOO
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp fresh lemon juice

In a food processor, blend the water and sun-dried tomatoes until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and blend well.

TO ASSEMBLE (the fun part!)
Drain the marinated squash and blot dry. In a baking dish, arrange the "noodles" along the bottom of the dish. Spread half of the cashew cream evenly over the noodles. I like to include some fresh spinach and baby portabella mushrooms into my lasagna, but any other of your favorite vegetables would be fine. Arrange the veggies evenly on top of the cashew creme and spoon 1/3 of the tomato sauce over top. Add another layer of the squash a repeat the cheese, veggie, tomato sauce layers. The final layers should be noodles topped with tomato sauce. You can optionally sprinkle with nutritional yeast for that extra bit on top!

Cut into pieces, serve & enjoy. This recipe will not disappoint you, take my word for it!

Happy raw eating!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Kale Salad... Massaged!

Kale has become my absolute favorite vegetable. I am literally obsessed with it.... and in any form: raw, steamed, whatever. Not only do I think it is super delicious, but it is considered to be one of the most highly nutritious vegetables with many health benefits. Kale has very high levels of Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, lutein and calcium, and is a good source of fiber. It contains some carbohydrates and protein as well and has very few calories. Amazing!

Sometimes when eating kale raw, it can be a bit tough and hard to chew. It has a very potent flavor which turns a lot of people off. Someone once asked me if I had ever massaged my kale. Of course, my answer was 'No!' Who would ever think to massage their veggies? Well, my friend was right.

Here is the recipe for my delicious "massaged kale salad:"

1 bunch of kale, washed, stalks removed and cut or torn into pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
juice of 1 lemon
2 avocados, cut into cubes
1 tomato, chopped
salt & pepper to taste, optional
cayenne pepper, optional

Place the kale in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and massage the kale until it starts to soften and wilt, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and lemon juice and massage again for another minute or two. Add one whole avocado and half of the other and massage into the kale, until the chunks of avocado have been thoroughly incorporated into the kale. Add the diced tomatoes and remaining half of cubed avocado and toss well. Do NOT massage the tomatoes into the kale. I like all my food spicy, so I top mine with a sprinkle of cayenne pepper. Salt and pepper are optional as well, depending on your taste.

I make this in the beginning of the week and eat a bowl for lunch (and sometimes dinner too!) every day. It feels so good to put all those raw, live enzymes into my body and to know that what I'm eating has major health benefits. Eating such healthy food gives me energy and I hope you take my advice and try this salad! You will not be disappointed...

Lots of love,

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Super Sweet Holiday Gifts... SUGARPLUMS!

This holiday season, I decided I was going to make some sort of treat and package them up as little gifts for family and loved ones. I wanted something different from a holiday cookie or chocolate truffles. I was looking for a sweet healthy treat that tasted like the holidays. Wow, I sure gave myself a lot of criteria to follow...

I always wanted to make sugarplums, but I didn't really know what they were. I've heard the word so many times, but have never actually seen one in person. So, I consulted a few of my favorite go to websites for confections (Martha Stewart, William Sonoma, Saveur) and found exactly what I was looking for! Naturally, I combined a few recipes and added a few different ingredients and came up with my own recipe for sugarplums.

Ingredients (makes about 100 sugarplums):
2 cups shelled unsalted pistachios
2 cups walnuts
2 cups dried apricots
1 cup dried figs
2 cups dates
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cloves
5 tbsp honey
3 tbsp ginger preserves
2 tbsp orange zest
Superfine sugar, for rolling

In a food processor add pistachios and walnuts and pulse until the pieces are small. Transfer to a large bowl.
Add the apricots, figs and dates one at a time to the food processor and pulse until the pieces are small. Transfer to the same bowl as the nuts. Do not be alarmed when the dates begin to clump together. They are sticky and this is going to happen.

Dates, Apricots, Figs

Add spices, honey, ginger preserves and orange zest to the mixture. Mix together well with your hands incorporating all ingredients.

Put the sugar in a small shallow bowl. Using a teaspoon or your hands, scoop up a rounded spoonful of the mixture, press together, and roll between your palms into a compact ball. Roll the round in the sugar and set on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Once all balls all rolled, place in the refrigerator for at least one hour. Transfer to airtight containers and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. The longer they stay, the more the flavors come out.

I bought about 20 Ball jars from Target that could fit about 15 sugarplums in each. I thought this would be a wonderful little holiday gift. To spice up the packaging, I bought some nice festive ribbon and made these little hangtags.

This was a super fun thing to do for the holidays and was an affordable gift that I could give to all of my extended family members.

Happy New Year everyone!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Soup Season! First up: Spicy Squash & Bean Soup

The colder it gets, the more I just want to cuddle up on the couch with a hot bowl of soup. There is definitely a season for soup, and we are getting deep in it. I made this hearty soup last week and it lasted Brad and me about 4 days. I put the whole pot in the fridge and would take a bowl full, heat it up for lunch or dinner (or both!) and indulge. It's so nice to have a homemade soup prepared for the week.

For this soup, I got inspiration from a few different recipes I saw on various food blogs. I like to take bits and pieces from different recipes and then create my own. One recipe I saw used butternut squash and another used delicata squash. When I was at the store, I couldn't seem to decide between the two so I used both, naturally. Butternut squash is commonly used in making soup because it tends not to be stringy; it tastes somewhat similar to sweet potatoes. A quick note: the oranger the color of the squash, the riper, drier and sweeter it will be. Delicata squash is one of the tastier winter squashes; it has a creamy pulp that tastes almost like corn and sweet potatoes.

Delicata on the left, Butternut on the right

Enough about squash, let's get to the recipe...

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped carrots
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ginger powder (or freshly grated)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 cups cubed butternut squash
2 cups cubed delicata squash
1 bay leaf
4 cups vegetable broth
(1) 15.5 oz can black beans
(1) 15.5 oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
(1) 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
shelled pumpkin seeds for garnish (optional)

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, red pepper, carrots, jalapeno and garlic and cook on medium heat until soft, about 10 minutes. Mix in the salt, chili powder, ginger, cayenne pepper and cinnamon and stir for about 1 to 2 minutes. This mixture should smell amazing... spicy and sweet. Once the veggies are evenly coated with the spices, add the rest of the ingredients, except for the pumpkin seeds: the squash, bay leaf, vegetable broth, beans and crushed tomatoes. Bring this to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer for about a half hour, stirring occasionally. You want the squash to be soft and tender, but not too soft where it gets mushy.

Once the soup is ready, spoon some into a bowl and garnish with pumpkin seeds. I love the crunch that the pumpkin seeds add to the soup, plus I think they look really cute.

Leftover soup makes for a great quick lunch or dinner.

More soup recipes to come....


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Goodbye, NYC. Hello, Bradley Beach!


I realize that I have not posted since May. Lame. However, I have made some great changes in the recent months and have shifted gears completely. I could not possibly be happier. I needed to take a chance and follow my heart and passions. That said, I resigned from my job at Conde Nast (after almost 4 years) to take time to focus on school (nutrition) and thoroughly enjoy my life. Working a full-time job and going to school on Sundays, whilst trying to maintain a social life was far too much for one human. This led me to put my blog on the back-burner, and to be honest I kind of stopped cooking all together. I literally had no time and my kitchen in NYC was not very conducive to creating the grandiose meals that I had lurking around in my brain. So, Bradley and I moved to Bradley Beach. How appropriate! It's been wonderful thus far, and I know it's only going to get better. I am studying hard, taking long runs on the boardwalk, enjoying every single moment and most importantly, cooking! And I plan to cook a LOT! So please, stay tuned... With the holidays upon us I will be sure to share my own creations and some old family favorites.

Goodbye, NYC (for now).
Final photos of my building on 12th Street in the East Village.

Hello, Bradley Beach!

The "Treehouse." Brad and I absolutely adore this new home.
With an outdoor deck, a gigantic screened in porch and each other, what more could we need?!

Two blocks from the beach!

November 27th, 2010. Fourth Avenue. Bradley Beach, NJ.

I will be posting a new recipe for crab meat stuffed mushrooms tomorrow.... My addition to Thanksgiving's feast : )

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Life & Seaweed Salad

So, I'm making big changes in my life and finally following my heart and passions. It feels wonderful. I recently rekindled a wonderful relationship with a beautiful soul, Danielle DeAngelo, after a 10 year hiatus in our friendship. It must have been fate because we literally have the same dreams.

Last month I enrolled in a Clinical Nutrition and Holistic Health Program - which Danielle has almost completed - at the Academy of Natural Health Sciences in Woodbridge, NJ. It's perfect; I'll learn everything from advanced nutrition, herbology and homeopathy to sports nutrition and healing psychology. I am beyond excited.

Anyway, in the first lesson I learned that seaweed is one of the healthiest things we can eat. Lucky me... I LOVE seaweed salad, but had never made my own. Why? I don't know. Seaweed contains so many important vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, B-vitamins, vitamin C, iron and potassium. It's been shown to cleanse the body of toxic pollutants. Sweet - I should be eating this every day.

How foolish I have been not to make it sooner. It couldn't possibly be easier.

Here's how it goes:

1 package dried wakame seaweed (can be whole or cut - mine was cut)
6 tbsp rice wine vinegar
6 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp Asian sesame oil
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
2 cloves minced garlic
half a cucumber, cut in half lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced
sesame seeds for garnish

Wakame Seaweed, purchased at Whole Foods

Soak wakame in warm water covered for about 5 minutes. Drain then squeeze out excess water. If the wakame is not cut, cut it into thin slices.

In a separate bowl, stir together the vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and garlic. Poor dressing over the wakame and mix to combine well. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with cucumber slices, like so....

So good and so healthy.

Please do try this. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but this was the best seaweed salad I've ever had. It didn't have that overly chewy texture I was used to or get stuck in my teeth at all. It was perfection.



Monday, March 1, 2010

Stuffed Cabbage

Recently I've encountered a lot of recipes for stuffed cabbage. It's strange how certain foods appear in my life across various mediums (magazine/newspaper articles, menus at new restaurants, on the Food Network, etc.) all at once... It's like the universe is deliberately trying to feed me inspiration.

Anyway, I wanted to create a vegetarian version of stuffed cabbage. Typically, stuffed cabbage calls for rice and ground beef; however, I don't eat beef and therefore needed to come up with something different.

I've been eating a lot of quinoa lately so I figured this would work as a great base for my filling. I steamed a bag of spinach and added that to the quinoa along with a can of lentils and a dash of salt and pepper. That was all; simple, healthy and delicious, and not to mention total improve. I literally used whatever I had in my cabinet and fridge.

As I began pulling the cabbage leaves apart I felt that they were a bit firm, so I steamed those for a few minutes which made them softer, and therefore easier to roll and form.

Here's how it went...

Steamed cabbage leaf.

Cabbage leaf with filling

Stuffed cabbage leaves in a casserole dish.
Once rolled, I secured them each with a toothpick to hold the contents together.

I've noticed that most recipes for stuffed cabbage call for a topping of tomato sauce, so this is exactly what I did. I made a quick sauce (recipe below) and spooned it over the entire dish before baking in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Tomato Sauce:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 24 oz can crushed tomatoes
Salt, pepper and crushed hot pepper to taste
In a medium sauce pan, heat oil and add onion and garlic
and saute for about 3 minutes.
Add the can of tomatoes and let simmer until ready to use.
Could not be easier.

I have to say that this was really fun and easy to make and super delicious. It was the perfect comfort food I wanted for a lazy Sunday evening. I sprinkled a little Pecorino Romano cheese on top (how could you ever go wrong with PR?!) and I ate it immediately when it came out of the oven. It's also great as left overs. Brad just ate some more, or should I say devoured some more, and it was just as good if not better today.

I highly recommend making stuffed cabbage, either my way or your own way. Think of the cabbage leaves as an blank canvas - you can create your own masterpiece!