Category Archives: Recipes

The Best Lab Tested Hummus Recipe Ever

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Ever since the puppy melted the food processor on our glass-top stove, I have been forced to consume store bought hummus, which is loaded with salt, oil and (often) sugar, most likely added to distract you from the distinctly chemical taste, which sets up residence on the roof of your mouth.

However, the chemical hummus can now be evicted, as my husband recently purchased a new food processor. While I still have to wait until my sell-out-chick-lit manuscript becomes a best-seller before I can afford a Vita-Mix, I am extremely happy with the Siemens FQ1, which, being a German brand, should last for years, barring any further occurences of the labrador trying to cook.

charlie hummus wait

Charlie Learns How to Make Hummus

As much as I would LOVE to turn this into a blog about my Chocolate Labrador and how cute he is while staring at the food processor, I will show some control over my lab-session (as my son calls it) and leave you instead with the BEST HUMMUS RECIPE EVER.

Obviously, being a white girl from MidWestern America currently living in Germany, where ‘spicy’ means adding extra black pepper, this recipe is not my own. It comes from Jerusalem: A Cookbook, by Yotam Ottoleenghi & Sami Tamimi. If you don’t own this book, you should. While there isn’t much ‘healthy’ food in here, and it certainly is NOT vegan, the recipes DO inspire you, and many of them CAN be altered for your particular needs. So, without further ado….

The World's BEST Hummus with Tongue Tingling Harissa

THE HUMMUS

The Raw Materials

1 1/4 cup (250g) dried chickpeas

1tsp baking soda

6 1/2 cups (1/5 liters) water

1 cup Tahini

4 tbsp fresh lemon juice

4 cloves garlic, crushed

6 1/2 tbsp (100ml) iced water

The Method

BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING: The night before, cover the chickpeas with cold water (twice their volume) and soak overnight. Trust me, it’s worth the wait. Don’t use canned! *Note: I usually double this recipe so I can have enough for an entire week. Of course, I eat it every single day.

COOKING DAY: Drain the chickpeas. In a medium saucepan (I use my cast iron, enamel pot–but that’s just me) turn up the heat to HIGH and add the drained chickpeas and baking soda. Stir constantly for about 3 minutes. Add water and bring to a boil, skimming off the foam. Cook between 20-40 minutes, until chickpeas are very tender, but not mushy, and break easily when pressed between your fingers.

Drain the chickpeas. I let mine cool a little, then add to the food processor. You should now have about 3 1/2 cups. Process the chickpeas in the food processor until you have a stiff paste. Then, with the machine still running, add tahini, lemon juice, and garlic. (You can also add 1 1/2 tsp salt, though we choose not to).

Finally, slowly drizzle in the iced water and watch the magic, letting it mix for about 5 minutes or until you get a very smooth, creamy paste.

Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest for 30 minutes. If you need to, you can refrigerate until needed, but pull it out of the kuhlshrank 30 minutes prior to serving.

THE HARISSA

In Israel, even gas station hummus was good, and there were a multitude of varieties. My personal favorite came with a spicy red sauce on top. While I’m not sure if Harissa is the same stuff, it is pretty close. I omit the caraway (as it makes my stomach feel weird); and I omit the oil & salt for dietary reasons; and I add extra chilies for a little more spiciness. A little dollop of this is perfect on top of hummus.  *Note, I make a bigger batch than normal because I have a bigger family than ‘normal.’

The Raw Materials

3-4 red peppers (blackened)

1/2 tsp coriander seeds

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1 red onion, coarsely chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

5-6 hot red chilies, seeded and coarsely chopped (or use only 1, depending on how hot you like it)

2 tbsp tomato paste

2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

The Method

Slice peppers in half, seeding them and place face down under a very hot broiler, until blackened on the outside and completely soft (10-15 mins). Transfer to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to cool completely then peel, discarding the skins.

Meanwhile, in a deep frying pan, over low heat, lightly toast the coriander and cumin for about 2 minutes. Remove to a mortar and use a pestle to grind to a powder.

Fry the onion, garlic, and chilies on medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, until nearly caramelized.

Now, add everything (including the peeled peppers) to the food processor, mixing until smooth. (I prefer mine just a little bit chunky).

FINALLY

Place a scoop of hummus on a plate, make a little divot in the top, and add a dollop of Harissa. Serve with cucumbers, raw red peppers, flat bread (if applicable) or your favorite gluten-free crackers and enjoy a little taste of the Middle East in your Western kitchen!

Gratuitous Labrador Photo--I couldn't help it! He's smiling in this one!

Gratuitous Labrador Photo–I couldn’t help it!                   He’s smiling in this one!

Guten appetit!

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Capers are Not Just for Muppets: Inspiration from Real Recipe Plans

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Real Recipe Plans

When I was offered a free trial of Real Recipe Plans, I thought, “Great! This will help me to be organized!” So, I began the membership by promptly vacating my own gluten-free cooking zone for a suspect kitchenette in the Alps, which is a less-than-stellar way to begin any new endeavor.

I came back from our marathon festivities, which included a close-encounter with Austrian cheese, to find a backlog of recipes along with a sinking sensation that I had failed before I’d begun.

I needed help, and Real Recipes Plans offered it to me.

Not only do I receive five simple, gluten-free, dairy-free vegetarian recipes each week, I also get a handy shopping list I can download to my iPad. The only way this service could be improved would be if I could highlight, check or delete items as I go along. But I AM happy to have the list because all I have to do is pick up the ingredients and then rest soundly knowing that even if I’m stuck behind a parade of tractors on my way home from Crossfit, a fresh, whole foods dinner will still be on the table in a timely manner.

But more than just the ease of using this service, Real Recipe Plans encourages me to add new things to our dietary repertoire. I’ve gotten into a Vegan rut recently, serving the ‘usual’ garbanzos with coconut milk, sweet potato tacos and if all else fails, rice and beans. While these recipes are good ones, some members of the family say things like, “It’s Monday, we must be having mango black bean salad.”

Thus enters Real Recipe Plans to revitalize the Wellman family palate.

One of the first recipes I made called for capers. I was under the impression capers were a type of little fish, like an anchovy or sardine. Fortunately for my children, I googled it before doing the shopping, and thus, the Wellman family had their first capers in a quinoa salad that did NOT taste like fish and had nothing to do with Muppets (our only prior experience with the word).

Most of the recipes are perfect as is, but sometimes, such as in the Farmer’s Market Bowl, I added some fresh ginger and garlic: not only to spice it up a little, but because I am a firm believer that fresh ginger and garlic ward off colds, flus and unwanted houseguests.

Even though I haven’t yet stuck with the ‘plan’ of making one recipe per day, and even though I can’t always find some of the ingredients here in Germany (like kale, since it is a seasonal crop and won’t be seen for several more months) Real Recipe Plans has encouraged me to try new things and has helped me out of the gluten-free Vegan doldrums.

I have friends who scour the internet for recipes and have APPS that create shopping lists for them, but I am too busy/distracted/interrupted to do this myself. I would much rather pay someone ten bucks a month to send me the recipes (and the lists) and know that dinner will be more than just a can of beans.

Real Recipe Plans is a great service for those of us who value fresh, whole foods but need a little help in the organizational department. Thank you, Chef Kimi, for the great-tasting, easy-to-make, real-food recipes! 

A Message from Master Chef Kimi Reid of Real Recipe Plans

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I don’t often do this, but I thought I’d share this note from Master Chef Kimi Reid, of Real Recipe Plans, who sends easy, healthy and delicious recipes to my inbox once a week. The blog of my experience with this service will follow soon, but I was encouraged this post because I agreed with SO much of it.

–Keri

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Why Gluten-Free?  Why Real Recipes?  Master Chef Kimi Reid explains.

“We live in a fast-paced society and healthy food is not always accessible or affordable!  There are so many alternatives to cooking at home, and I realized that there needed to be a simple solution to take-out. An alternative to delivery.  A downright easy way to avoid common food allergens.  We need to get back in the kitchen…asap…go, now!

So I created Real Recipe plans, which provides busy people like yourself with a simple plan every week.  After spending 9 years in the professional culinary world, I can tell you that the only way to avoid processed foods and many common food allergies, is to make the food yourself.

My food philosophy is ‘Naturally gluten, dairy and soy-free,’ because I understand the challenges associated with food allergies.  I personally follow this eating philosophy and have found incredible anti-inflammatory and digestive success eating this way.  And honestly, most of my subscribers have been astounded how easy it is to keep these foods out of your diet…just focus on the real ingredients, and follow our awesome recipes.

I personally have sensitivities to gluten, dairy and soy, and have found that I feel much better without these ingredients.  It can be easy to eat gluten-free, but there is a whole world of gluten-free products out there, which will not necessarily help anyone reach their health goals.  I honestly feel that eliminating common food allergens from your diet, opens up your world to a plethora of exciting, real ingredients…but not everyone knows how to cook with real ingredients these days.  Real Recipe Plans shows you how to cook with real ingredients in new, fresh and delicious ways.  Yahoo!”

*Bonus: ‘Like’ Real Recipe Plans on Facebook, and try the service for FREE for one month!

Himalaya China Thai German Chickpea Dish 151 or Culture Shock Curry

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Recipe of the Week

Culture Shock Curry

Every few weeks, you will see my son and I walking through downtown Würzburg.

I am alert, peeking into the yarn shop and forcing myself to swiftly move past the stores that sell running gear, while chanting, “I don’t need more running gear. I don’t need more running gear.”

My son, on the other hand, walks briskly and silently, trying not to collide into people on his way to what he calls “the perfect combination of psychological and physical torture,” known to those of us without braces as the “orthodontist.”

He will thank me someday, as he wheels me in to get my dentures.

I enjoy our outings to Würzburg. Maybe it’s because of the guy we saw with the purple mohawk and purple tights, with a purple balloon tied to his waist, carrying an old-style boom box on his shoulder; or maybe it’s the way I have to hold my breath when I go down the stairwell of the parking garage; but whatever the reason, Würzburg certainly has a more cosmopolitan ambiance than my lovely little village, where the oddest sights often include farm machinery.

As is our custom, I let my son have Pizza Hut after his orthodontist appointment, and yes, I DO realize there is some irony in this. I am a Health Nut Mom, but let me tell you, Pizza Hut is a rarity in my neck of the woods, so I indulge the young man, though it is probably clogging his arteries and contributing to a host of diseases he will have to combat in the future–but it’s his choice. [End of Mom Rant].

While I usually consume an organic nut bar and a smoothie while he eats, this time I was hungry for hot food. We still had a lot of errands to run, so I thought I might be able to find a safe-ish sort of Asian food place. I’ve gone before to the one just around the corner from Pizza Hut, known by the ambiguous name ‘China Wok.’

As I approached, a sign a little further down the alley with the interesting name “Himalaya,” caught my eye. But in case the onlooker was put off by the “Himalaya” part, they had also added “China” and “Thai,” making me briefly question the geographical integrity of the owners.

Since I am constantly on a quest for good Pad Thai here in Germany, I decided to be bold and try this place, even though it was filled with angry-looking guys drinking beer (at noon), a group of chatty girls, and a lone Asian tourist, looking very out-of-place (like us). However, I took it as a good sign that every seat was filled, though the place was no bigger than my living room, and the kitchen was right there behind the cash register, where my TV would be.

Having perused the menu intensely (and not finding a single strand of Pad Thai noodles), I decided on number 151, a Chickpea dish for vegetarians. And wow! I’m glad I did! It was an absolutely fabulous curry, and the best part is that I could watch the guy make it, and I tried to remember what he put in it–though maybe next time I’ll secretly video tape him with my iPhone.

Thus, tonight I experimented, added mushrooms plus a bit of this and that and a new favorite was born.

All through dinner, I heard (through mouthfuls of food) “Yum! This is SO good Mom!” And “Can you make this again?” And “This is better than steak! Plus it won’t kill me!”

I was so excited about the results, I felt the need to share this right away, while I could still remember what I put in it. So, inspired by a trip to the orthodontist and a quirky Himalayan Chinese Thai German restaurant, I present:

Culture Shock Curry

The Raw Materials

1 large yellow onion (thinly sliced)

2-3 cups white button mushrooms (sliced)

1 cup green onion (chopped)

2 gloves garlic (pressed)

2 tbsp ginger root (freshly grated)

4 cans of chickpeas (for a family of 6…adjust according to your family size)

2 cans unsweetened coconut milk

1 tbsp freshly ground coriander (use a mortar & pestle–it’s great AND relieves stress)

*2-3 tbsp Thailand Sunset Dream Curry Powder: Okay, so I found this at an organic market (yes, in Würzburg) so you may not have this exact spice in your area. But mine contains paprika, cumin, coriander, mustard powder, chili powder, garlic powder and something called bockshornklee, whatever that is. So experiment, if you don’t have this, I would recommend playing around with some curry powder, chili powder, red pepper and cumin until you get the spiciness that you like.

6-8 cups cooked rice (again, depending on your family size)

The Method

Set your rice cooking in a rice cooker. If you do not own a rice cooker, you should, as they are wonderful.

Rub down your cast iron wok with wok oil then heat up the puppy on med-high till it sizzles. Toss in your large onion and water sauté until onion is brown and your eyes are watering. Add the ginger, garlic and freshly ground coriander, and cook 1-2 minutes, until aromatic.

Add your mushrooms, and sauté 3-4 minutes, or until the mushrooms begin to soften and brown. Continue adding small doses of water to keep the stuff from welding itself to the bottom of the wok. Push the mushroom mixture to the outer ring of the wok, turn your heat to high and add the chickpeas and green onion.

Mix everything together for 4-5 minutes, then add coconut milk and remainder of curry spices.

Simmer 3-4 minutes and serve piping hot over brown rice.

Prepare to be a hero.

(One who has a minor addiction to cooking with coconut milk–it’s just SO creamy!)

Guten Appetit! 

Recipe of the Week: Keri’s Comforting Pumpkin Pancakes

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There’s just something about the mixture of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and pumpkin that makes me feel as if I’m sitting in Grandma’s kitchen. I know all about the dangers of having ‘food associations,’ but there are some  I don’t want to give up. It’s not just about the food–it’s about the free refills of love that come with Grandma’s pumpkin bread.

So when the days are gray and pumpkins are plentiful, there’s nothing to do but play with Grandma O’s pumpkin bread recipe. I’ve successfully managed gluten-free bread loaves with her recipe, and this month the challenge has been to alter it into pancakes.

As usual, I experimented with a little trial and a LOT of error. One unspeakable batch refused to cook, and was thus unwittingly served beautifully brown and crispy on the outside, with a soggy mess in the middle–imagine cracking open a can of pumpkin puree and eating it with a spoon.

However, on Sunday I finally managed the perfect balance between pumpkin flavor and finicky gluten-free flour mix. Thus, Keri’s Comforting Pumpkin Pancakes were born.

The Raw Materials

3 cups Bob’s Red Mill Pancake Mix (for a family of 6)

1 egg or substitute

1 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Allspice

1/2 tsp Nutmeg

1 cup coconut milk (or one can, added slowly to proper consistency)

3/4 cup pumpkin puree (fresh pumpkin is delicious but a can works too, if you’re short on time)

1 tsp Agave nectar

2 tsp Pure Organic Maple Syrup (please do not sully this recipe with ‘syrup’ containing corn by-products)

The Method

As wil all my recipes, add more spice if you like it. Personally, I enjoy a tad more nutmeg and maple syrup than the average bear, so taste the batter frequently, and use your own judgement. (*Batter-taster is at his or her own risk…author is not liable for salmonella or any other kind of weird disease you may get from your raw egg–for a safer bet, go organic!)

Beat egg and coconut milk together, then add pancake flour until mixed. Add pumpkin puree, agave nectar and maple syrup until mixed. Sweeten the deal by adding your allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon. If your batter is too thick, add more coconut milk or supplement with rice milk. Batter should not be too runny, nor to thick.

Wipe down your griddle with a tiny bit of oil and warm to medium-high. When a drop of water sizzles on the griddle, add your dollop of pancake batter. Cook until the edges are firm and the middle loses its shimmy.

Say a quick prayer and flip the pancake, cooking 3-4 minutes longer, or until the bottom is brown when you peek at it. Remember, gluten-free flour takes longer to cook than wheat flour, so be patient!

Serve with a side of maple syrup and prepare to hear, “Yum! These are great!”

You can thank my Grandma O for the inspiration!

Guten Appetit! 

Pumpkin Perfectly Punctuated

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Recipe of the Week: Pumpkin Perfection

I stole this recipe from the fall edition of Cooking Fresh magazine, but since I did not have all the ingredients (what exactly is turmeric?) and because I added pumpkin, subtracted the cauliflower, and tweaked the portions to meet the needs of a family of six, this recipe is now my own.

It all began when my husband discovered not only can you EAT pumpkins, but they are extremely good for you. Subsequently, he has been subtly encouraging me to cook with pumpkin by doing things like touting the health benefits of pumpkin, running pumpkin through the juicer (which I can’t recommend), and leaving small pumpkins on the table in the hall, where they taunt me daily.

But pumpkin? How does one go about cooking pumpkin? It seems so exotic!

I knew from the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books that pumpkins could be cooked, but since Mma Ramotswe doesn’t give an exact recipe in the stories, I wrote on my chore list “google pumpkin recipes,” which I promptly forgot to do.

So, you can imagine my joy as I flipped through the Cooking Fresh magazine at the store and saw an entire spread on gourds, and my mind immediately turned to the forlorn little pumpkins waiting for me at home.

It turns out, pumpkins are not simply vessels upon which you carve scary faces. You CAN eat them! And edible pumpkin isn’t just something you scrape from a can into your bread mix. There are lovely, gorgeous gourds you can take home and (with some wrangling) slap on your plate.

The pumpkins my husband brought home were small, a deep orange color, and very round. I’m sorry I can’t be more specific as to what particular TYPE they were, but just make sure when you buy one, you get one that is for cooking.

I don’t usually eat pumpkin without adding multiple cups of sugar and/or three packages of cream cheese, so this endeavor was rather exciting for me.

This healthiced recipe has a spicy yet sweet flavor that has become a new fall family favorite.

Though Cooking Fresh calls this ‘South Indian-Style Vegetable Curry,’ my version is called ‘Pumpkin Perfection!‘ (The exclamation mark is ABSOLUTELY necessary, as alliterated P’s must always be emphasized).

The Raw Materials

1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced

4 medium cloves garlic, pressed

1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated (1 Tbsp)

1 Tbsp coriander seeds, ground

1 1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp cinnamon

1 small can tomato paste (6 oz)

1 large can organic diced tomatoes (with juice, 28 oz or 6-8 fresh tomatoes, chopped)

1 cup vegetable broth

1 can coconut milk (13.5 oz)

1 sweet potato (peeled and cubed)

4 carrots (peeled and sliced into bite-sized hunks)

2-3 small white potatoes (peeled and cubed)

2 small pumpkins (peeled, seeded and cubed) *Peel & cube the same way you do a butternut squash–cut in halves, scoop out seeds, slice in wedges and trim the rind with a sharp knife*

1 can chickpeas

4 cups of fresh baby spinach

1 whole lime from which you will need: 1 tsp grated lime zest & 2 Tbsp juice

2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

The Method

In your Dutch oven, water sauté the onion on medium-high heat until brown (5-7 minutes). Add the garlic and ginger, stir for one minute to blend the flavors. Add the coriander, cumin and cayenne, stir for half a minute then add tomato paste, stirring for one minute more.

Add the broth, coconut milk, cinnamon and bring to a boil. Don’t worry if the liquid appears brown, it will turn a lovely orange after you add the veggies! 

Reduce heat and add sweet potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkin, carrots and potatoes. Add more liquid if necessary (tomato juice, water or broth), until the veggies are just covered. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20-25 minutes.

Stir in chickpeas, lime juice, lime zest, cilantro and spinach. Turn off heat, and let cook until spinach is wilted (about 3 minutes).

Ladle into your Polish Pottery soup bowls and get ready for an onslaught of Vitamin A, potassium, and enough compliments to know all the trouble preparing those little pumpkins for the pot was worth it!

Guten Appetit!

Vegelicious Squashetti

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I’d heard of these things called ‘spaghetti squash’ but had never seen them in person.

Sad, but true.

Maybe it’s because things like this are seasonal here in Germany, or maybe they’ve always been buried beneath the mounds of decorative gourds that invade like martians every autumn.

Whatever the case, I paused when I read the sign ‘Spaghetti Squash,’ causing a mini-stau in the narrow aisle.

Actually, there were three placards and therefore three different types of squash for my consideration. I could have quickly googled it on my iPhone, but sometimes, I like to do things the old-fashioned way. So I stood there pondering the squash, while people bumped past, giving me the stink-eye.

Butternut was an easy one since, being the only type sold at our commissary for what seems like years on end, I had previously purchased it for my red lentil stew. The other squash was small, round and green, and thus, I could not imagine what type of so-called spaghetti could come from it. The buttery color of the third made it a prime candidate. Proudly, I scooped up the only two yellowish gourds and hoped for the best.

Upon returning home, a quick google search showed that I had chosen wisely. After reading a number of cooking blogs and realizing that I was too lazy to stand there and boil the things, I sawed them lengthwise in halves, cleaned them, placed them face down on a cookie sheet, wrapped them in foil, and left them to fend for themselves in the oven at 400 degrees.

20 minutes and a pan of pasta sauce later, a new family favorite was born.

The Gourd

2-3 spaghetti squash, halved. As with most squash, it’s hard to cut these bad boys raw. You can just toss them in the oven and clean them later, but I never have enough patience time for that sort of thing. So, as any good mom would, I had my teenage son cut them for me. It’s good training for him.

Clean out the seeds and gunk in the middle, and wrap the gourd halves in foil. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes (depending on how big they are, and if you like them softer or more al dente).

After baking, you’re ‘supposed’ to let them cool, which means I plunge right in, trying not to burn myself on the hot gourds whilst scraping the steaming innards with a fork.

Though the actual name of the gourd was a subtle form of foreshadowing, nearly every person in the house (myself included) exclaimed, “It looks like spaghetti!”

Brilliant.

I tossed the stringy meat of the squash into a big bowl and served it hot with pasta sauce.

The Sauce

If you’re in a rush for time, you can simply dump a jar of organic, gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan pasta sauce over it, which I know you always have on hand. But to make this dish truly live up to its vegelicious name, make your own sauce.

The Raw Materials

6-8 tomatoes plucked from your pesticide-free garden, chopped

1 large sweet yellow onion

6-8 white mushrooms, sliced

1-2 red peppers chopped

2 cloves garlic, pressed

1 large zucchini, chopped

1 large yellow squash (I didn’t read the placard on that one, though I’m sure it has an official name), also chopped

2 tbsp tomato paste

water or tomato juice, as needed (I ended up adding one large can of organic diced tomatoes with the juice)

1/4 -1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1-2 tbsp dried oregano

1 tsp cumin

1 dash red pepper

Any other kind of  spices or veggies you like

The Method

Water sauté the garlic and onion on medium-high until translucent, adding water as needed to prevent sticking, and then add the red pepper.

Saute for 2 minutes and then add mushrooms.

When the peppers begin to soften (about the time you can smell them 2-3 minutes later), add the tomatoes.

Keep adding small amounts of water or tomato juice as necessary to prevent a smoking mess on the bottom of your pan.

When the tomatoes begin to soften and break into mush, add your spices, tomato paste, and enough liquid to make it look like pasta sauce. If it’s too runny, add more tomato paste and/or a can of organic chopped tomatoes.

Bring to a simmer then add your yellow squash and zucchini.

Simmer until the squash and zucchini are just beginning to soften, but remove from heat before they turn to mush (5-8 minutes).

Aesthetics

Form your spaghetti squash ‘noodles’ into the most spaghetti-ish arrangement possible, leaving a divot in the middle. Fill the squashetti nest with your vegilicious pasta sauce, and garnish with freshly plucked basil leaves.

Topping this with some spicy Mrs. Dash (known as ‘Mister Dash’ around this house for some strange reason) and some Veggie Shreds (if you can find them), makes this the most Vegelicious Squashetti you will ever have.

Guaranteed!

Bugsplat: Desensitization by Trail Running

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When I first began running four years ago, there were things I would not do:

  • Run in the rain

  • Run in the wind

  • Run if it looked like it might become windy or rainy

  • Run if there was anyone who might see me

  • Run before breakfast

  • Run if it looked buggy

  • Run if I felt tired/achy/sick/bloated/lethargic…

I would also not run without each of the following items:

  • hat

  • headphones

  • sunglasses

  • hydration pack

  • tissues

  • snacks

  • mosquito repellant

  • clothes coordinated (down to the socks)

I also had strange little pre-running rituals, such as using the bathroom multiple times, re-tying my laces at least twice, and peering out the window to make sure there really, really wasn’t anyone on my road. I admit, sometimes I used binoculars.

I used to wake up in the morning and think cute thoughts like: I wonder if it will be a good day for running?

I find it funny, the things to which I’ve become desensitized:

  • Bugs: In Star Wars, Hans Solo has to program the Millennium Falcon before engaging the hyperdrive, so they don’t collide with objects in space. Trail running is like that, only YOU are the ship, and BUGS are the objects to be avoided. Sometimes, however, there’s a collision or an unavoidable swarm, and you find yourself picking insects from your sweaty body.

  • Weeds: Countless times I’ve chosen a trail which looks like a groomed golf-course, only to find myself ankle-deep in flora that pokes through my socks and sticks to my shoes. The only thing to do is to pick up the pace.

  • Mud: A sloppy trail no longer stops me. In fact, I don’t quite trust running shoes that aren’t dirty.

  • Sweat: I used to wear sweatbands around my wrists; now I just wipe my brow with my sleeve, if I have one. Sometimes sweat drips right down from the ends of my braids.

  • Non-standard WCs: When you run through the countryside, you don’t always have restrooms available. The more trail running you do, the better you get at finding concealed areas.

  • The Weather: It is ALWAYS a good day for running, because even if raindrops pummel you in the face like pellets from a vindictive child’s bb gun, you come away stronger. Besides, a marathon is NOT a fair-weather friend: unless there’s a hurricane, she will be there for you, rain or shine.

  • Perfect clothing: All I ask these days of my running apparel is that it fits well, is non-chafing, and doesn’t add weight to my body as I sweat. While color-coordination gratifies my OCD, (and I admit, I DO try and keep my favorite outfits clean & easily accessible) if my hot pink socks are the only ones available, I will wear them, ignoring the fact that they clash with the red stripe on my knickers.

  • Early hours: My alarm chirps at 5am, whereupon, I roll out of bed, sneak into the kitchen to start the coffee, and then I quietly get dressed by the light of my window. I like to run at 5:30 because there are no tractors, no cars (if I have to use the paved road), and the entire countryside is mine. Not only is the incredible sunrise worth the effort, I can continue my day as teacher/mama/wife guilt-free.

  • People/tractors/cars: If for some reason I have to run later in the day, the only thing I do not wish to share the trail with is the manure truck, which MUST be avoided at all costs–even if it means adding a couple miles to my route.

  • Forgetting things: While it IS good to be prepared (I make a list for long-run days), there are mornings when I simply dart out the door, leaving technology (and a few other random things) behind. If I forget something, I continue on my run without getting worked up about the absence of niceties. Though gadgets can be useful, it is good to unplug once in a while and listen to your body during training–to know what a 9 minute mile feels and sounds like, rather than what it looks like on an ambivalent computer screen.

While I’ll never be an Olympian, I feel I have been happily desensitized to things that used to hinder my runs; and God-willing, I will continue to learn more about myself as a runner, as the years move swiftly past.

Recipe of the Week: Tastes Like Chicken Apricot BBQ Tofu

This week’s recipe is adapted from the cookbook Veganomicon. It is NOT a Dr. Fuhrman recipe and is most likely  just beyond the limits of his Eat to Live plan.

While I cut out all the oils and changed the soy sauce to tamari, the ingredients that push this recipe over the Eat to Live edge are the molasses and (pure) maple syrup. I’m sure with a little experimenting, the molasses could be substituted with dates, but I haven’t tried that yet.

However, this is a great-tasting recipe that my entire family enjoyed. As Libby happily exclaimed, “It tastes like chicken!”

Success–I have now sufficiently altered my 8 year-old’s taste buds.

The Raw Materials

1 small yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 pounds fresh apricots (6-8, depending on size), pitted

1/2 cup water

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground coriander (I crushed the seeds by hand, because using the mortar & pestle makes me feel gourmet)

Several pinches of freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup molasses

2 tbsp pure maple syrup

2 tbsp tomato paste

3 tbsp tamari (or soy sauce)

1 tsp liquid smoke

2 packages Extra-Firm Tofu, drained & pressed (I cut mine into triangular patties–not too thick)

The Method

While you are working on the glaze, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In your dutch oven (or a saucepan), water saute onions over medium-high heat until browned (7-10 minutes). Add garlic and sauté for 2 more minutes. Add 1/2 cup water to de-glaze the pan. Add the apricots, black pepper, ginger, and coriander. Cover and bring to a boil. Once the sauce is boiling, lower the heat to medium-low and let cook for about 10 minutes, until the apricots are mushy.

Uncover and add the molasses, maple syrup, tomato paste, tamari, and liquid smoke. Cook for about 10 more minutes, stirring often and mashing the apricots to a gelatinous goo.

Remove from heat and let cool.

Transfer to food processor (or blender) and puree until smooth.

Slice your pressed tofu and dredge in tamari, coating both sides. Place slices in a 9 x 18 inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Bake for 15 minutes, flip the slices and bake for 15 more.

When the tofu is done baking, smother with BBQ sauce and return to oven for 15 more minutes.

Remove from oven and serve with veggie of your choice.

We went with sweet corn, and because of the slightly Asian taste to the glaze, I also roasted some mushrooms to serve as a side. This would be excellent as a sauce for any stir-fry.

For convenience, pre-make the sauce and keep in the fridge until needed.

Guten Appetit!

Creamy Carob Goodness: Recipe of the Week

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The thought of going to a Memorial Day Barbecue as a Vegan was a little daunting, and it wasn’t the smell of roasting meat I feared (since meat surprisingly has little appeal to me now), but it was the knowledge of all the sweet goodies I would ‘miss.’

Of course I’m quite accustomed to bringing my own food to potlucks or other functions, since most baked goods make me violently ill.

But I wanted to bring a rock-em-sock-em dish, which is why in addition to all the veggies we brought for the grill, I decided to try Dr. Fuhrman’s Carob Avocado Cream Pie.

If you are not a vegan, you are probably shuddering at the use of the words avocado and carob in the same sentence. But let me just say, anyone who has trained their tastebuds to natural foods should try this pie. It is SO good, I felt guilty for eating it. Not only did I think it was loaded with sugar, but it tasted too good to be gluten-free.

In fact, it is so good that the first ‘test’ pie didn’t make it to the barbecue. 

In fact, it is so good that I made two other pies to ‘bring,’ out of pure benevolence, having absolutely no ulterior motives about leftovers. 

The thought DID cross my mind that my friends would shun the pie, thereby leaving me no choice but to take some home, but I would endure it graciously.

Without further ado…direct from Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book Disease-Proof your Child:

Recipe of the Week: No Shuddering Allowed Avocado Carob Cream Pie

I have to give credit to Noah, who has been reading Disease-Proof Your Child (totally his idea), and who begged encouraged me to make some of these recipes.

The Raw Materials

Crust:

1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1/2 cup crushed raw macadamia nuts

4 medjool dates (or 8 small dates) pitted

The Method:

Place coconut, macadamia, and dates in food processor until everything is powdery. Then, place in bowl and knead the mixture until it begins to stick together.

Plop into pie pan, placing plastic wrap loosely on top. Press down gently and spread until the mixture covers the bottom of the pan.

Cream Filling:

2 tbsp raw carob powder (or more, to taste)

12 raw cashews

1 avocado (I used 2 avocados)

3 medjool or 8 regular dates, pitted

The Method:

Rinse the chunks out of your food processor, and place carob, cashews, avocado, and dates inside. Blend until creamy and smooth. Spoon filling over crust and chill by freezing for one hour before serving.

We found this is best served slightly frozen.

Now that I’ve shared this recipe, I need to sign off and go buy some avocado attend to my chores. 

Guten Appetit!

Guilt-Free Fast Food: Keri’s Classic Tofu

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“It’s great that you’re so healthy: getting up early to run and being Sushi Girl,” my husband said, as I zipped up my neon sweater and strapped the water bottle to my hand.

Sushi Girl.

Unbelieveable.

I used to be the beleaguered Mama who, to save time, figured out the lowest possible setting to toast the waffles without leaving them frozen in the middle. On a good morning, meaning one in which I would have consumed 2 or 3 cups of coffee before the kids awoke, I would secure my Awesome Mama status by carefully filling the waffle squares to make blocky smiley-faces.

Now, I make things like sushi and tofu.

Many people say they don’t have time to cook healthy meals–and I can totally understand that. I remember tossing chicken strips into the microwave, and feeling it was a pain to have to turn them halfway through. What a waste of ten seconds!

Though my kids are now old enough to do things like chop veggies and do dishes, there are days when I’m pressed for time.

But gluten-free vegan cooking takes SO long, doesn’t it?

Not really.

Last night, I chopped up some peppers, onions, and tomatoes and threw them in the skillet with some crumbled tofu. I added black beans, chipolte spice, cilantro, and lime, and it came out a tasty Tex-Mex tofu, if there is such a thing.

I’ve perused a lot of recipes and have done a lot of playing around with tofu, and my family’s favorite tofu is also the simplest to prepare.

So, without further ado, my Recipe of the Week: Keri’s Classic Tofu

 The Mighty Block of Tofu: Organic, Extra-Firm

Step One: Press the tofu.

As usual, I learned this step the hard way; and there were many nights my son had to chisel a brown layer of tofu off my pan, but finally I learned three important things: 1) press the tofu well, 2) buy a REALLY good non-stick pan, and 3) give the clean-up crew a special allowance. My teenage son, who routinely has post-dinner kitchen duty, is thankful I learned these things.

I use two blocks of tofu for my family of 6, and there are no leftovers

Apparently there is a gadget called a ‘tofu press,’ but since I have no idea where to find one in Germany, I simply layer the tofu with wads of paper towels, then put it between two cutting boards with a weight (my mortar & pestle) on top and let it sit for as long as possible. If I have planned correctly, I will do this an hour before I cook. If I am in a rush, I gently press it down myself, and try not to squish it into a pancake.

Step Two: Cut into Cubes

Maybe I’m still a kid at heart, and slicing tofu reminds me of playing with play-dough, but this is one of my favorite parts of tofu-play.

Stand the mighty tofu towers on end

Slice into fifths

Stack the thin slices and cut into bite-sized cubes

Step Three: Adding Flavor

If you are not worried about sodium intake, you can, at this point, toss the tofu cubes with Tamari or Soy Sauce. I ran some ginger through the juicer and then tossed my tofu cubes with the ginger juice, which gave it a bit more flavor. Or, you can just leave the tofu plain. Because we are cutting back on sodium, I prefer to cook the tofu cubes with a green onion.

Chop the green part of 3-4 onions into little O’s and set aside

Step Four: Cook It

After nearly ruining many pans, I invested in a high-quality (meaning, German) non-stick skillet. We do not clean this puppy with soap (as my teen learned from my shrieks as he grabbed the bottle of dish soap while touching my new pan), but we merely use water on it. If parts of it get sticky, I’ll rub a little wok oil in it, to clean it.

Heat the pan on medium, until water sprinkled in it begins to sizzle;
then drain the tofu (if marinating) and add the cubes

When the tofu begins to brown, add green onion

I use a silicone spatula to gently flip the cubes
Cook in skillet, adding a little water if needed (to keep from sticking), over medium-high, until tofu looks golden

Step Five: Eat it

Serve tofu with your veggie of choice

A very simple way to do veggies is to chop mushrooms into quarters and toss into 400 degree oven with green asparagus (woody parts snapped off). Put the veggies in the oven while you cook the tofu–and it should all be done at the same time. 

Step Six: Feel Good

At first, cooking tofu may take longer than zapping dinosaur-shaped ‘chicken’ nuggets with invisible rays. But once you try tofu a few times, and use your own creativity and preferences, you will find that not only is it a quick meal, but it tastes good too. And you can dine guilt-free, knowing that your family is consuming something that will help prevent a host of diseases in the future.

Maybe it sounds entirely domestic, but it gives me joy to provide dinners that nourish and heal–and taste GOOD–rather than dinners that simply fill the belly.

The idea that every calorie counts is not accurate: in reality, it is the amount of nutrients in any given morsel that counts towards good health.

Guten Apetit!