Best Breakfast Green Bowl

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pictured above: a Green Day bowl from Sejuiced, in Newport Beach, CA

Just when I thought the Acai bowl was my favorite new plant based frozen treat, along came this Green Bowl to satisfy my sweet tooth/summertime frozen treat craving!  The color is green, but the taste is like a soft serve tropical ice cream, think pineapple, mango, banana…and I promise you the green does not get in the way of the incredible fruity flavors!  This is thicker than a smoothie, so grab a bowl, a spoon and get ready for a great breakfast, lunch, or anytime treat. Topped with fresh fruit, shredded coconut, goji berries, and even a spoonful of almond butter or peanut butter, this treat will make you smile and dive in for more!

For easy prep, purchase pre washed and packaged baby spinach and kale OR instead of kale just use a * “power greens” mix which has a combination of spinach, kale and chard.  I used a combination of baby spinach and power greens because I wanted more spinach.

Just like the Acai bowl, the green bowl blends best in a high powered blender such as a Vitamix.  I have not tried the recipe in any other blender and it probably wont work as well, especially if you do not have a tamper.  The slimmer tapered container works better than the low profile container because it takes less ingredients to fill up the bottom and maximize the power of the blade.  I use my 48 oz. container, especially when just making one serving.

Ingredients for one serving but this recipe doubles beautifully:

  • A handful of baby spinach and a handful of kale (or instead of kale a handful of “power greens” *see note above)
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen mango
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1/4 cup liquid of your choice, suggestions to choose from include: water, flax water (1/2 Tbls. flax and 1/4 cup water), coconut milk, almond milk

Method:

Place all ingredients in blender in the order listed.  Start blender on low and ramp up to high using the tamper to tamp the ingredients down until a smooth consistency is achieved and all of the ingredients are blended well.  Remove contents from blender using a spoon or spatula and layer with granola or top with sliced banana, fresh blueberries, granola, shredded unsweetened coconut, goji berries, almond butter or peanut butter, or other toppings of choice.  Consume immediately or freeze for later consumption.  Enjoy!

The Best Acai Bowl

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pictured above (Acai bowl from Sejuiced, Newport Beach, CA)

If you have never tasted an Acai Bowl you are in for a treat!  Think thick, icy smoothie that you eat with a spoon, it eats like a frozen soft serve ice cream but is all natural with no artificial sweeteners…it doesn’t need any extra sweetness because it is SO naturally GOOD!  Add toppings like sliced fresh fruit, granola, cacao nibs, even a spoonful of almond butter or peanut butter and you are in for a very satisfying treat!

I’ve only made this in a high powered blender such as a Vitamix so I can’t vouch for any other blender. I also use my small 48 oz. container versus my larger low profile container, I found the models which have the slimmer taller jar work better because you will be tamping down the ingredients as you blend.

Ingredients for 1 serving :

  • 1/2 a frozen banana
  • 1/4 Acai Stick (can find at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods)
  • 1/2 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1/4 cup liquid of choice: water, flax milk (1/2 Tbls. flax with 1/4 c water), almond milk, or coconut milk

Toppings: sliced fresh fruit such as half a sliced banana, sliced strawberries, or your favorite fruit, granola, peanut butter, cacao nibs

Method:

Place ingredients in blender in the order they are listed.  Turn blender on low and gently ramp up speed using tamper on high speed to push ingredients down and blend to smooth consistency.  Remove from blender with spoon, and layer with granola and toppings.  Enjoy immediately or freeze for later consumption.

Notes:

The recipe is easily doubled if you are making more than one bowl, the more ingredients the easier to blend.

Alternatively, you can use frozen Pitaya sticks instead of Acai sticks.  I find the Pitaya is an acquired more sour flavor and prefer Acai.

 

 

 

 

“The New Rules of Work” The Modern Playbook for Navigating your Career

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In this modern age with the use of social media and the internet finding a job and networking has changed. This book does a great job of covering all of the major points to be mindful of when selecting, pursuing, and maintaining a career.

The first section of the book “Make your Move” has lists, checklists, and even charts to help the reader jot down and narrow down the goals and direction of a particular career choice of interest.  The section includes understanding choices based on interests and making the next move to pursue the dream career.  In the next chapters the focus turns to “Making Your Move” and covers topics like Networking through social media and traditional networking, how to find job openings and interview and negotiation advice. Finally, the book talks about what to do when you are in the work place to maximize communication and interpersonal workplace relationships and productivity, and how to pursue career advancements.

Whether you are in a career, looking for one, or want a refresher on the do’s and don’ts of the entire career search process, this book will be a great tool and resource. I received this book for my honest review from “Blogging for Books.”

“Know Who You Are Live Like It Matters” A Homeschooler’s Interactive Guide To Discovering Your True Identity by, Tim Tebow

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  1. Tim Tebow’s interactive guide is written with the homeschooler in mind, but is perfect for anyone who is struggling with a personal or identity crisis, or needs reassurance on the basic fundamentals of their faith and how to live out those truths in their daily lives.  Everyone needs to hear that their life matters and that they are loved by the Creator of the Universe, and that they have purpose and meaning that goes beyond life’s ups and downs. The book reads like a devotional but is also perfect for journaling within the book.

    The 4 main sections of the book cover topics like:

    1. Who You Are in Jesus (finding your identity in Jesus)
    2. God’s Got It (God loves you and knows what you are going through, He is sufficient
    3. Other’s Matter (Investing in others)
    4. Live Bigger (Understand that God has a purpose for your life)

I really love how simple and practical the book is.  Each of the 4 main section is broken down into 9 short 1-2 page devotionals, each would take just a few minutes a day to read. There are 36 total devotions.  Each devotional starts with a bible verse to focus on followed by the 1-2 page message and ending with thought provoking/application questions which are related to the daily topic.  There is space underneath each question for the reader to journal their answers on how they can personally apply the message to themselves.

Tim Tebow does an excellent job of breaking simple truths down for anyone to understand.  Although I intended to give this to my teenage son, I may also share it with my Mother in Law who is undergoing some major life changes and could use the daily encouragement and short excerpts to encourage her in the days and months ahead.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for my honest review.

“The Book of Greens” Jenn Louis with Kathleen Squires

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I highly anticipated receiving this book and I read the entire book from cover to cover in one sitting, on the very same day it was delivered on my doorstep.  I love the author’s point of view in encouraging the reader to understand flavors and pairing combinations of over 40 varieties of greens. The greens are alphabetized and then include several recipes for each green. The ideas from this book have allowed me to expand my understanding and creativity in the kitchen and encouraged me to start incorporating more greens into every meal.

I recently started a plant based diet (no dairy or meat) so I really hoped the recipes for each green included at least one plant based recipe per green, but even so there are still plenty of plant based recipes to get started with. I have already picked out some favorites.  The recipes are highly creative and all seem to be very flavor forward.  I can see anyone from plant based, to vegetarian, to meat lovers, enjoying and benefiting from this book. Vegetarians will especially love this book as recipes are either designated Vegetarian (V) or otherwise.  To top if off, the photography and book cover are equally stunning.

Some recipes which I can’t wait to try my hand at include:  A Persian Greens Dip called “Borani Esfanaaj” made with arugula, mint fresh parsley and pistachios, “West African Peanut Stew” made with ginger, collard greens, jalapeno and peanut butter, “Miso Soup with Tumeric, Wheat Noodles, and Gai Lan”, “Curry Leaf Dosa”, “Mustard Green Pancakes”, “Nettle Pakoras”, “Mujadara with Purslane” the author adds a fascinating note that this is a dish believed to have been the meal that Esau at from Jacob and lost his birthright as a result, “Moong Dal and Basmati Rice with Beet Greens”, “Miners Lettuce Socca” a French/Italian chick pea pancake, “Dukkah”, “Muhammara” .

I received this book for my honest review from “Blogging for Books”  I would highly recommend this book for any food lover who wants to incorporate more healthy greens into every day meals.

Spaghetti Squash Casserole

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I first tried this dish at True Food Kitchen and fell in love with the light textures and fresh flavors of this dish. After recently switching to a plant based diet, I was thrilled when the restaurant allowed me to substitute their house made dairy free almond ricotta instead of a traditional mozzarella topped version . I will admit, I rarely eat spaghetti squash, and had never even cooked it before. I will be cooking spaghetti squash a lot more now that I have been inspired with this fabulous, light tasting casserole which is so filling and just bursting full of texture and flavor.

One of the things I love about this recipe is the make ahead factor. The sauce is not even cooked until final assembly.  All of the components, like the roasted spaghetti squash, spiralized/julienned zucchini, caramelized onions, sauce, and even the almond ricotta (for a non dairy version-almonds must be soaked a day ahead-recipe link below), may be made and prepped ahead and stored separately until final assembly.  The assembly of the dish takes just minutes to warm in a skillet and then the casserole may be popped in the oven just to melt or warm the cheese.

Spaghetti Squash Casserole Recipe:

Time: about 1 1/2 hours total not including the overnight soak for almond ricotta

Serves 6 generous portions – as pictured above this is a half a recipe baked in an 8 inch by 10.5 inch by 2 inch deep dish, I saved the remaining half of the cooked or prepped ingredients to make another smaller casserole a few nights later. If making the full casserole recipe all at once, use a 9×13 casserole dish when ready to bake.

Ingredients

For the Sauce:

  • 1 28 oz. can Blanco or other brand of Organic Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1-2 cloves of Garlic, peeled with brown root end cut off of the clove
  • 1/2 tsp. Dried Oregano or 1 tsp. Fresh Oregano
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1-Tbls. Olive Oil (omit if oil-free version is desired-will still taste great)

For the Squash:

  • 1 Spaghetti Squash around 4-5 pounds, split in half lengthwise and seeded (roast the seeds separately with olive oil and salt for a nice snack)
  • 2 Zucchini Julienned or spiralized (I used a Kitchen Aid spiralizer-thin blade)
  • 2-3 Tbls. of Fresh Parsley, or Basil, or Thyme for garnish (or use a combination of and or all, dried or fresh)
  • 1 Onion Caramelized (Dice one medium to large sized yellow onion and sauté in a pan with 1-2 Tbls. of oil, or water for oil-free version, on medium-low heat for 30 minutes or until brown and soft-can add a few teaspoons to taste of honey, maple syrup or brown sugar to speed up the process). I ran out of olive oil so I used the liquid that remained on my sheet pan after roasting the spaghetti squash.
  • 2 Tbls of Olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and fibers attached to the seeds. Save the seeds to roast for a delicious snack.  If using oil, rub a small amount of olive oil just to lightly coat the inside of the spaghetti squash halves and sprinkle salt and pepper on the inside as well. For an oil free version omit the oil, it will be fine.  Lay the two halves cut side facing down on a sheet pan lined with parchment for easy clean up.  Roast until al dente-approximately 40 minutes. You do not want to overcook. Use a spoon or fork to scoop out the spaghetti squash strands once slightly cooled. The squash may be roasted and cooked a day ahead and refrigerated until needed.
  2. While the spaghetti sauce is roasting, caramelize the chopped onions in a skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil or for an oil free version water or vegetable broth so the onions do not stick. If you have liquid left over from the roasting of the spaghetti squash, you can use that as well. Add sweetener of choice to help with the browning and to add some sweetness.  This should take about 30 minutes or so on medium low heat. This can be made a day ahead.
  3. Blend all sauce ingredients in blender until almost pureed with some slight texture to the tomato. This can be refrigerated and made a day ahead if necessary. Keep the sauce uncooked, it will be cooked further later.
  4. Spiralize or Julienne the Zucchini
  5. Heat a large sauté pan with 2 Tablespoons of oil or water. You can even use any liquid that was on the sheet pan after roasting the squash.  Add the cooked and separated spaghetti squash strands which were scooped out of the skin, julienned zucchini, tomato sauce and caramelized onions till combined and just heated through.  Place mixture in a casserole dish and top with mozzarella cheese or almond ricotta if desired.  Please see my blog or the link below for the almond ricotta recipe:   https://wordpress.com/posts/dawnielovestocook.wordpress.com
  6. Place casserole dish uncovered in a 400 F degrees oven until mozzarella cheese is melted and has a slight color or almond ricotta is heated and just warmed through. Once the cheese is melted and browned (mozzarella) or warned through ( almond ricotta), finish the dish with some chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, basil , thyme or a combination of one or all three. If you do not have fresh herbs used dried.

Enjoy!  Makes great leftovers as well!

Almond Ricotta

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Almond Ricotta is so easy to make and is a great non dairy alternative.  Almond Ricotta can sell for up to $9.00 for a 4 oz package at Whole Foods Market, but you can make it at home for a fraction of the price.  The recipe does require a high speed powerful blender and just a little planning ahead.  To create the creamy, dreamy texture of ricotta, the almonds must be soft, so an overnight soak of raw slivered blanched (skins removed) almonds is ideal. There are quick soak methods, using hot water to soften but I have always done an overnight soak. Once the soaking is done and the almonds are drained and rinsed, the blender does all of the work.  Almond Ricotta may be dotted onto a baked pizza, or used to finish pasta dishes. Once the ricotta is added then place the pizza or pasta back in the oven just to warm the ricotta. Pictured above is a Spaghetti Squash Casserole which was warmed in a sauté pan, placed in a baking dish, topped with the cold Almond Ricotta and heated just to warm in the oven.  I finished the dish with some freshly chopped basil.  Preparing nut cheese requires food safety.  I always keep my almonds in the refrigerator during the soaking process and also refrigerate after the Ricotta is made. The Ricotta is perishable so keep in refrigerated for no more than 3-4 days.

Recipe-Yields approximately 1 cup of Almond Ricotta

Time: 8 hours/overnight soak, plus 5 minutes to blend and

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of raw blanched slivered almonds
  • Spring Water for soaking and for blending (approximately 1-2 cups)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Place blanched slivered almonds in a 1 cup glass measuring cup or other container.  Pour spring water over the almonds until fully submerged with about  1-2 inches of additional water over the top of the almonds. The almonds will slightly expand when soaking.  Cover container with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.
  2. ***Very Important Step*** Make sure to drain and rinse the almonds well in a colander or strainer ***Do not use soaking liquid
  3. Place the blanched almonds in the blender with a few pinches of salt and pepper and blend on high speed with 1/4 cup of water to start and then drizzle in more water while blending until you get the consistency of ricotta. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Refrigerate until ready to use.

***Blender note: a narrow base blender jar works better than a wide base jar due to the small volume of ricotta made in this recipe. I have used a wide base jar, but just have to stop and scrape down the sides a few times to get the consistency I am looking for.

 

 

Curried Wheatberry Salad

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We tasted a similar salad at Whole Foods and fell in love with the flavors and textures of this salad which is non dairy and vegetarian and oil free. If you substitute the honey for a plant based sweetener such as maple syrup of agave this delicious grain salad would be vegan. Packed full of protein and flavors, this makes a great lunch.

This was my first attempt at cooking wheatberries.  The directions on the package said to soak overnight but I also read that the overnight soak is not completely necessary so I skipped the soaking step and boiled them. If I have the time I will attempt to soak overnight next time for comparison. I used one cup of hard red wheatberries and boiled them in 3 1/2 cups water for about 50 minutes until the texture was soft but still chewy.

I drained and cooled the wheatberries and then put them in the refrigerator until I was ready to assemble the salad.

Recipe Yields approximately 6 cups:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked wheatberries, cooked in 3 1/2 cups water until soft but chewy. Bring the water to boil, add wheatberries, cook on low/ slow rolling boil for 50 minutes or until done and then drain and cool (can be made a day ahead)
  • 3 small seedless Persian Cucumbers cut into small dice
  • 1/2 of a Red Bell Pepper cut into a small dice
  • 1/8 cup to 1/4 cup finely diced Red Onion depending on how much raw red onion taste you like
  • 1/2 cup of cooked and shelled Edamame
  • 1/2 cup Blanched Slivered Almonds
  • 1/2 cup Zante Currants
  • 1/8 cup Toasted Sesame Seeds
  • 2 Tbls. chopped fresh Parsley
  • 2 Tbls. chopped fresh Cilantro

For Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup Honey (or for a vegan option use maple syrup or agave)
  • 1/4 cup Tahini
  • 1 1/2 Tbls. Dijon Mustard
  • 1/8 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 clove of garlic pressed in garlic press or very finely chopped
  • 1 Tbls. Soy Sauce
  • 1 tsp. Curry Powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Tumeric Powder

Directions:

Prepare the dressing and whisk all of the dressing ingredients together. Taste and season with salt if desired.  After the wheatberries have been cooked, drained, and cooled, toss the wheatberries with the dressing to desired consistency (the dressing may be just enough or you may have a few tablespoons left over depending on how heavily dressed you would like the salad).  Add all of the the remaining ingredients such as the chopped vegetables, sesame seeds, currants, almonds, and herbs and gently stir till combined. Refrigerate and Enjoy!

“Vibrant India” by Chitra Agrawal

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I’ve been interested in exploring Indian cooking for years and even though I own several Indian cookbooks, somehow the spice list and methods always seemed too overwhelming and tedious to follow. I recently adapted a plant based diet so I jumped at the chance to explore the Vegetarian Cookbook “Vibrant India” for new cooking inspiration. I enjoyed reading the recipes which are fairly straightforward and presented in a very approachable manner.  While reading the book I  gained a sense of basic pantry items and found the few first recipes I was ready to try along with many others which I bookmarked.  I took a trip to my nearest Indian grocery store and purchased the necessary spices, some fresh curry leaves, a few fresh Indian chili’s and I was ready to cook.  What surprised me most of all was how easy the recipes were to make, and I was completely impressed with the final outcome.  I would highly recommend this book for anyone interested in flavorful Vegan or Vegetarian Indian cooking.  I am an advanced cook but this book would also be perfect for a beginner-intermediate cook as well.  The book helped demystify a lot of foreign ingredients for me.

When I cook in the kitchen I like to have all of my ingredients prepped before I start the recipe, it really helps to make the flow of cooking more streamlined.

I tried Potato Stir Fry with Onion and Ginger pg. 8020170409_153336

I’ve wanted to prepare a potato dish like this but never knew where to start. The recipe was so straightforward and easy to prepare, and I loved the taste of this dish.  I used a wok to prepare the dish. The dish was perfect, for a spicier version, I will add more green chili’s next time. Without even washing the wok, I prepared my next dish pictured below, Green Bean and Coconut Stir Fry pg. 82:20170409_153342

The Green Bean and Coconut Stir Fry was another winner of a recipe and so simple to make.  I continued to use my wok to cook the green beans and after my ingredients were prepped it took less than 10 minutes to cook this dish.  I loved the fresh flavors and hint of spices, another winner of a dish.

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I am looking forward to preparing more dishes using the recipes in “Vibrant India” which range from breakfast, entrees, salads, sides, drinks and desserts. The book helped me realize that Indian cooking can be fun and enjoyable and worth the effort of finding the correct spices to make the dishes sing.  What a way to bring spice and flavor to my new vegan diet!  I received this book from Penguin Publishing for my honest review.

 

More info:

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/240993/vibrant-india-by-chitra-agrawal/

Author Bio:

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/222815/chitra-agrawal/

Road Food, 10th Edition by Jane and Michael Stern

road-food-largeRoad Food is not just a thin guidebook, its actually over 450 pages of restaurant suggestions and maps broken down by regions and contiguous States of the USA .  The book starts with a top 100 National Honor Roll and then continues with the East Coast selections and ends with West Coast restaurants.  While the book definitely includes an overview of some top local favorites, it seems to just scratch the surface and is by no means a comprehensive guide.

Restaurants within their respective regions are listed by State and are alphabetized.  There are a several key indicator designations which are helpful near the name of the restaurant such as including average price per person,  the use of letters: B L D (Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner), Vegetarian, Open Late , etc.

Since I do not take a whole lot of regional road trips, I thought I would look at the just under 50 suggestions offered for California, the State in which I live.  I recognized some listings and have dined at a handful of the suggestions.  I wished some of the selections would have been more descriptive.  For instance, La Super Rica, Santa Barbara, CA location rarely ever answers their phone, and when you arrive it does not mention that the wait could be anywhere from a half and hour to one hour depending on the line.  Another location which needs to be updated is Philippe’s, Los Angeles, CA. Much to my dismay, they have not sold $.09 cent coffee since 2012 yet this newly revised edition says they still do. Currently the coffee costs  $.59 cents or $1.09 depending on if you get it for dine in or to go.  I also know of so many other rich gems which are not mentioned in the book, the roughly 50 selections for the State of California, which has the highest population in the USA, seems like it barely scratches the surface.

There is no doubt that the original Road Food guides helped pioneer the discovery of local and regional gems. While this is not a comprehensive guide in any way, it is a good way to get thinking about what restaurants you may want to visit when in a regional area.  In today’s age of modern technology, I would personally still use social media as a final determining factor to help learn about hot spots in a local area, or to check out recent reviews on service, wait times, food quality.  It’s nice to know the writers have developed their own app for mobile devices  and website called “roadfood.com”.  This book would still be helpful when planning a trip or determining where to visit and would make a great gift for the road traveler or foodie who loves to read up on local gems.  I plan on lending my copy to a friend who does a lot of road traveling, but I would not mind glancing at it before my next road trip either.