“M” is for Mesquite Powder

When I first saw mesquite powder at my local co-op, I thought it had something to do with savory cooking applications. I was wrong! Mesquite powder (also known as mesquite flour) is quite the opposite: it has a mild, sweet, nutty, molasses-like flavor with a touch of caramel and a hint of chocolate (source). The nutritional benefits of mesquite powder are rather impressive. It is full of calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, and lysine. It is also high in dietary fiber and protein and low in fat. So, if you add some to a cookie recipe, you can eat all the cookies you want! Ha!

I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies and replaced a 1/4 cup of whole wheat pastry flour with mesquite powder. The result was a malty, nutty, caramel-like cookie. I definitely wouldn’t use more than 20-25% of the total flour as mesquite powder in a recipe though – it might be too powerful. Another bonus? Mesquite powder is gluten-free! Tra la la!!!

“L” is for Lemon Rice Noodles

Guess what? I love noodles. The simplicity of noodle meals is greatly appreciated when I don’t feel like putting much effort into cooking. Several months ago I purchased The Indian Vegan Kitchen and shelved it (according to size, of course) with my other cookbooks. It sat, slightly forgotten, until today. Tim and I needed a quick, filling, light lunch to power us through a day of volunteer work at Out to Pasture Animal Sanctuary in Estacada, OR. We love lending a few hands at this animal sanctuary – the folks who run it are incredible and the animals are so sweet. We decided on Lemon Rice Noodles, making some adjustments since we lacked a few ingredients. This dish came together in a matter of minutes and let me use those curry leaves stashed in my (new) freezer!

This dish was a medley of brown mustard seeds, dried red chiles, chana dal, lemon juice, rice noodles, curry leaves, turmeric, and roasted peanuts. Glamorous and delicious!

“K” is for Kinpira

Kinpira is a traditional Japanese dish that not only tastes amazing, but also gives your body energy, strengthens your intestines, and purifies your blood. That might sound icky, but trust me, this is a meal worth making at least once a week in the colder months. I learned about kinpira while reading The Kind Diet last year. It is incredibly simple to prepare and requires very few ingredients: sesame oil, carrots, burdock root, salt, ginger juice, shoyu, and water. I usually add sauteed kale (or green peas) and brown rice, but it isn’t necessary (it just makes for a more filling meal).

Are you wondering what burdock root is? Burdock is a vegetable that looks like a fibrous brown carrot. It has a sweet, earthy taste and is a member of the sunflower family. Have you ever gotten burrs stuck to your socks when hiking through a forest? Those burrs are most likely the fruit of the burdock root! Cool, huh? Burdock root is loaded with calcium, protein, and potassium. It is a liver detoxifier and helps support digestion. Want a recipe? OK!

This is adapted from The Kind Diet and The Hip Chicks Guide to Macrobiotics

Kinpira

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 large burdock root, cut into matchstick-sized pieces
1 large carrot, cut into matchstick-sized pieces
few pinches sea salt
2-3 Tablespoons water
1-2 teaspoons Bragg Liquid Aminos
1 Tablespoon minced ginger root
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish, optional

Directions:

1. Warm the sesame oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add the burdock root and a small pinch of salt. Saute for about 5 minutes, stirring often. You can add a few splashes of water if the burdock starts sticking to the skillet.
2. Add the carrots and saute 3 additional minutes.
3. Now add the water, Braggs, and ginger (make sure to add any juice from the minced ginger as well). Cover, reduce heat to low, and allow the vegetables to steam for 15 minutes. If you prefer more tender burdock root, steam for about 20 minutes. Continue to cook until most of the liquid is absorbed, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and serve hot.

I love serving kinpira over brown rice. Feel free to add whatever veggies you prefer. This is such a clean, simple, satisfying dish.

“J” is for Juice!

Earlier this year, Tim and I purchased a juicer. We did plenty of research, watched online demonstrations, and comparison shopped for several weeks. We finally settled on a cute counter-top juicer that we nicknamed Rommy (What? You don’t name your appliances?). Sure, it was a bit spendy, but the benefits of making your own juice far outweigh the cost of the appliance.

1. Making juice at home eliminates unnecessary plastic and glass bottle purchases. We used to buy bottled juice at the store every week. We recycled the bottles, but it still felt wasteful.

2. The only contents in our juice are the fruits and vegetables we put into it. There are no additives or preservatives.

3. Homemade juice is incredibly fresh. It hasn’t been sitting on a store shelf for several weeks.

4. Homemade juice is less expensive, especially if you purchase your fruits and vegetables locally and in-season.

5. The leftover pulp extracted from the juice can be used for composting.

One of our favorite combinations: Apple, carrot, ginger, and beet

Remember my post from yesterday? Well, all of the ingredients in the juice pictured above are considered excellent immunity boosters! Check it out:

Apples: rich in fiber, vitamin-C, malic acid, and flavonoids
Carrots: rich in vitamin-K, beta-carotene, fiber, folate, iron, and zinc
Ginger: rich in phenols and volatile oils, ginger is helps the body detoxify, alleviate nausea, and soothe digestive problems.
Beets: rich in iron, folate, fiber, protein, and potassium, beets help purify the blood.

Do you juice? What are your favorite combinations?

“I” is for Immunity Boosters

I thought it might be nice to do a quick post about tasty foods that keep our immune systems in top-notch shape considering the cold/flu season is upon us (those of us in the Northern Hemisphere anyways!). I found this great little book at the library called “The Top 100 Immunity Boosters” by Charlotte Haigh. It was pretty exciting to see plenty of my favorite foods featured in the book. Hooray for veganism!! Can you even believe that there are some fluffnutters out there arguing against plant-based diets? Fools!

I am only going to list my 5 favorite immunity boosting foods otherwise we’d be here all night. Let’s begin, shall we?

1. Curly Kale – Kale was a new discovery for me when I went vegan five years ago. I wish I had known of its existence sooner though because kale is a weekly essential in my meal plan. Kale helps prevent certain forms of cancer, is packed with B-vitamins, keeps cholesterol levels low, encourages wound healing, and contains iron and zinc. Plus, kale tastes amazing and is incredibly versatile in both cooked and raw foods. What’s not to like?!

Sesame Soba Noodles with Calcium-Rich Kale – One of my favorite recipes from Go Dairy Free by Alisa Fleming.

2. Brown Rice – Brown rice is loaded with iron, zinc, fiber, protein, magnesium, and B-vitamins. It helps build resistance to infections, and keeps our brains and nervous systems healthy. Brown rice is a complex carbohydrate so it releases energy slowly. Nifty little grain, huh?

Rice Pilaf with Caramelized Onions from The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone

3. Oats – Oats are such a wonderful grain. They are loaded with antioxidants, fiber, B-vitamins, iron and protein. Oats also help lower cholesterol, soothe the digestive tract, and ease stress. I love using oats for homemade granolas.

4. Cherries – I used to have quite an aversion to cherries. I was pretty sure that the only cherries worth eating were those syrup-doused red jewels in tinned fruit cups! Yikes! I’ve come a long way since my childhood. Picking cherries in the summer is one of my favorite activities. Oregon has amazing cherries, especially in the Hood River region.

Cherries are rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, potassium, and ellagic acid (cancer fighting compounds). I usually turn my annual 40-pound cherry bounty into dried fruit, jam, and smoothies. I’ve even been known to make brownies with cherries!

5. Pumpkin – It’s the perfect time of year to appreciate all the benefits of pumpkin. Pumpkins contain vitamin C, beta-carotene, fiber, and carotenoids.  Orange pumpkins are best. Essentially pumpkins can help fight heart disease and viruses, keep your immune system functioning efficiently, and promote healthy digestion. Hooray! Why not enjoy a gluten-free pumpkin bagel (Pumpkin bagels made by Kittee!!)? These beauties are topped with sunflower seeds, which incidentally, are another immunity booster! Sunflower seeds are crammed with B-vitamins, calcium, copper, magnesium, omega-6 fatty acids, and protein. This bagel will shoot you to the moon and back!

What are your favorite immunity boosters?