“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?

“H” is for Hazelnut Shortbread (Chocolate Dipped!)

Did you know that the hazelnut (also called the filbert) is Oregon’s state nut? It’s true! In fact, Oregon grows 99% of the commercial hazelnut crop produced in the US. Impressive, huh? Hazelnuts are at the top of my “Most Favorite Nuts” list, especially when they are freshly roasted. I figured since I love hazelnuts, cookies, and chocolate I should feature a recipe that uses all three ingredients in my post today. Sound good? Good!

Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies (Chocolate Dipped)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup non-dairy butter (I used Earth Balance buttery sticks)
1/2 cup pulverized unrefined sugar (I dumped a bunch of evaporated cane juice in my spice grinder and pulverized it until it was a fine powder)
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
scant 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup finely chopped, roasted hazelnuts
3 ounces dark chocolate, preferably organic, melted (for dipping cookies)

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, cream non-dairy butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
2. Sift flours into the same bowl and stir well to combine.
3. Add in chopped hazelnuts and stir to evenly incorporate.
4. Roll dough into a log approximately 8″ long by 1 1/2″ in diameter. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm.
5. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat.
6. Remove dough from refrigerator and slice into 1/2″ rounds. Place rounds on prepared cookie sheet and prick with a fork. You can make your cookies thicker or thinner – make sure to adjust your baking time though. Cookies will spread a little as they bake.
7. Bake for 25-28 minutes, or until lightly golden. Cookies will crisp up as they cool.
8. If desired, dip half of each cookie in melted chocolate. You could even sprinkle additional chopped hazelnuts on the chocolate if you are crazy for nuts! Place dipped cookies in the freezer to set the chocolate.

Enjoy with a cold glass of non-dairy milk and you’re good to go!

“G” is for Gluten-Free Super Fudge (Double Chocolate) Brownies!

As many of you know, I am currently in the midst of an exciting, yummy project: I am writing an all-vegan brownie cookbook! My hope is to have 50 recipes ranging from Rice Crispy Treat Brownies to more complex Neapolitan Brownies (plus some ice cream and toppings recipes). My kitchen is often a mess of cocoa powder, flour, melted chocolate, and dirty brownie pans. The project has been challenging, fulfilling, and tasty all at once. The greatest challenge so far has been crafting a gluten-free brownie recipe that knocks my socks off (and perhaps back on again?!). I did a ton of research on gluten-free baking and had a few successful attempts, but they weren’t 100%. When I was baking with Kittee last week, she offered up her gluten-free wisdom. I was able to use my standard brownie recipe and substitute gluten-free flours (plus the mighty xantham gum) to make an incredibly awesome brownie:

Ooooooooooh yeeaaaahhh. Those are vegan white chocolate chips dotting super fudgy brownies. Good stuff. I think I like these better than my standard double chocolate brownies! Unfortunately, I can’t share the recipe since it will be in my book, but if you want to sample one of my recipes, check out this post for Grahamy Mallow Brownies! I’m off to whip up more brownies now!